Radiolab

By WNYC Studios

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Subscribers: 64040
Reviews: 108

hear'hear Mariana
 May 14, 2022
I couldn't have said it better myself Mariana, the review from 3rd April 2022.


 May 2, 2022

Mariana
 Apr 2, 2022
I have been a Radiolab fan for more than 15 years. The show has been a part of my life. I have shared it with my kids and with friends. Unfortunately since the departure of Robert from the show, and now Jad, the show has crashed. The new generation is loud and obnoxious. They are more interested in listening to their own voices and making private jokes than in reporting a particular subject or listening to their interviewees. It is really very sad to see radiolab go extint.

James
 Feb 26, 2022
Fantastically crafted episodes with production values probably in excess of anything else you are likely to come across in podcast world 🌎. Highly recommended 👍🏻

Nathaniel Smith
 Dec 28, 2021

Description

Radiolab is on a curiosity bender. We ask deep questions and use investigative journalism to get the answers. A given episode might whirl you through science, legal history, and into the home of someone halfway across the world. The show is known for innovative sound design, smashing information into music. It is hosted by Jad Abumrad, Lulu Miller, and Latif Nasser.

Episode Date
My Thymus, Myself
28:12

Today, we go to a spot that may be one of the most philosophical places in the universe: the thymus, an organ that knows what is you, and what is not you. Its mood may be existential, but its role is practical — the thymus is the biological training ground where the body learns to protect itself from outside invaders (think: bacteria, coronaviruses). But this training is not the humdrum bit of science you might expect. It’s a magical shadowland with dire consequences. 

Then, we’ll leave the thymus to visit a team of doctors who are using this organ that protects you as a way to protect someone… else. Their work could change everything.

Special Thanks: 

One thousand thanks to Hannah Meyer, Salomé Carcy, Josh Torres, and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratories for showing us a real-life (mouse) thymus for this episode. Special thanks also go to Diane Mathis and Kate Webb.

Further reading:

Wanna do a little light reading? Here’s the immunology textbook Jenni Punt and Sharon Stranford helped write, including a whole section on that funny little thing called AIRE! Kuby Immunology 

The science paper that first described what happens inside the thymus as an, “immunological self shadow”.

Radiolab is supported by listeners like you. Support Radiolab by becoming a member of The Lab (https://members.radiolab.org/) today.

Our newsletter comes out every Wednesday. It includes short essays, recommendations, and details about special events. Sign up (https://radiolab.org/newsletter)!

Follow our show on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook @radiolab, and share your thoughts with us by emailing radiolab@wnyc.org.

And, by the way, Radiolab is looking for a remote intern! If you happen to be a creative, science-obsessed nerd who is interested in learning how to make longform radio… Apply! We would LOVE to work with you.  You can find more info at wnyc.org/careers.

Jul 01, 2022
Galápagos
64:36

As our co-Hosts Lulu Miller and Latif Nasser are out this week, we are re-sharing the perfect episode to start the summer season!

This one, which first aired in 2014, tells the strange story of a small group of islands that keeps us wondering: will our most sacred natural landscapes inevitably get swallowed up by humans? How far are we willing to go to stop that from happening?

This hour is about the Galápagos archipelago, which inspired Darwin’s theory of evolution and natural selection. Nearly 200 years later, the Galápagos are undergoing rapid changes that continue to pose — and perhaps answer — critical questions about the fragility and resilience of life on Earth.

Radiolab is supported by listeners like you. Support Radiolab by becoming a member of The Lab (https://members.radiolab.org/) today.

Our newsletter comes out every Wednesday. It includes short essays, recommendations, and details about special events. Sign up (https://radiolab.org/newsletter)!

Follow our show on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook @radiolab, and share your thoughts with us by emailing radiolab@wnyc.org.

 

Jun 24, 2022
No Special Duty
46:18

Since the massacre that took the lives of 19 schoolchildren in Uvalde, Texas, people across the world began to ask versions of one question: why did police wait outside the door instead of protecting the kids?

It's not the first time this question has come up. Two years ago, as she watched police respond to the protests that followed the death of George Floyd, Producer B.A. Parker wondered: what are police for? With the help of our Producer Sarah Qari, she found that the United States’ Supreme Court had given this a most consequential and bewildering answer.

We decided to re-air this episode to shed light on how a case from 2005 upended our assumptions about the role police are meant to play in our lives.

Support Radiolab by becoming a member of The Lab (https://members.radiolab.org/) today.    

Radiolab is on YouTube! (https://zpr.io/MTSFMLXQWDkE) Catch up with new episodes and hear classics from our archive. Plus, find other cool things we did in the past — like miniseries, music videos, short films and animations, behind-the-scenes features, Radiolab live shows, and more. Take a look, explore and subscribe!

Jun 17, 2022
Neanderthal's Revenge
26:54

A few months ago, co-Host Latif Nasser, who was otherwise healthy, saw blood in his poop. It was the start of a medical journey that made him not only question what was going on in his body, but also dig into the secret genetic story of how we became human. Curled up in a hospital bathroom, Latif tries to sort out whether his ordeal is the result of a long-lost sibling knifing him in the gut or, on the contrary, a long-forgotten kindness shared between two human-ish travelers. 

Special thanks to Azra Premiji, Avir Mitra, Suzanne Lehrer, David Reich, Sriram Sankararaman, Ainara Sistiaga, Carl Zimmer, Carly Mensch, Latif's GI Doctor Florence Damilola Odufalu and her entire team, and the staff at LA County-USC Medical Center and Keck USC hospitals who looked after Latif during his hospitalization.

Support Radiolab by becoming a member of The Lab today.    

Radiolab is on YouTube! Catch up with new episodes and hear classics from our archive. Plus, find other cool things we did in the past — like miniseries, music videos, short films and animations, behind-the-scenes features, Radiolab live shows, and more. Take a look, explore and subscribe!

Editorial Note: This podcast was amended after initial release to change the way we refer to those afflicted by addiction. 

Jun 10, 2022
Origin Stories
43:29

We’re all in a tizzy here at Radiolab on account of our 20-year anniversary. And, as one does upon passing a milestone, we’ve been looking back in all kinds of ways. Two weeks ago, we went out over the airwaves, “Live on your FM dial,” a callback to our origins as a radio show. We revamped our logo and redid our website (get your Freq on, people!). More recently, Lulu's and Latif’s first stories came up in a meeting. They weren’t always the intrepid hosts of our collective journey in wonder. Soren Wheeler, our editor, thought it would be fun to highlight those firsts for you. 

So here they are, baby Latif and Lulu, doing their darndest to make audio magic.

Support Radiolab by becoming a member of The Lab today.    

Radiolab is on YouTube! Catch up with new episodes and hear classics from our archive. Plus, find other cool things we did in the past — like miniseries, music videos, short films and animations, behind-the-scenes features, Radiolab live shows, and more. Take a look, explore and subscribe!

 

Jun 03, 2022
Radiolab After Dark
58:46

Back in 2002, Jad Abumrad started Radiolab as a live radio show. He DJ’d out into the ether and 20 years later we do the same. To commemorate the 20-year anniversary of the show, the Radiolab team went old school and took over WNYC Radio, live on the FM band. We answered the phones, played some wonderfully weird audio, including one piece where Kurt Vonnegut—yes, that Kurt Vonnegut—interviews the dead, took part in some games and tomfoolery, and did everything we could to have and to share in our good time.

May 27, 2022
La Mancha Screwjob
57:54

All the world’s a stage. Or, sometimes it feels that way, especially these days. In this episode, originally aired in 2015, we push through the fourth wall, pierce the spandex-ed heart of professional wrestling, and travel 400 years into the past to unmask our obsession with authenticity and our desire to walk the line between reality and fantasy.

Thanks to Nick Hakim for the use of his song "The Light". 

Support Radiolab by becoming a member of The Lab today.    

Radiolab is on YouTube! Catch up with new episodes and hear classics from our archive. Plus, find other cool things we did in the past — like miniseries, music videos, short films and animations, behind-the-scenes features, Radiolab live shows, and more. Take a look, explore and subscribe!

 

May 20, 2022
Frailmales
35:49

This week, we bring you two stories about little guys trying to do big big things.

First, self-proclaimed animal grinch producer Becca Bressler introduces us to perhaps the one creature that has warmed her heart: a cricket. And more specifically, a male cricket. This is a tale about a tiny Romeo insect trying to find a mate, and the ingenious lengths he’ll go to have his beckoning heard.

 

And second, producer Annie McEwen journeys through perhaps the zaniest game of football that has ever been played. When a ragtag group of players take on the top team, will it be an underdog tale for the ages or an absolute disaster?

Special thanks to Stephen Spann and Joshua Baxter at the Doris and Harry Vice University Library at Cumberland University as well as Alison Reynolds at Georgia Tech Library. Thanks also to Rick Bell, and to Scott Larson who wrote a book all about this game called Cumberland: The True Story of the Highest Scoring Football Game in History. And finally, thanks so much to our tape syncer Ambriehl Crutchfield for her help with this episode. 

If you’re still interested in learning more about this epic football game, be sure to check out this brilliant and hilarious video by sportswriter Jon Bois.

Lastly, don't forget to check out Death Sex and Money. We recommend episode titled Hard, which is deep dive into our relationship with erectile dysfunction, and the drugs developed to treat it.  

Support Radiolab by becoming a member of The Lab today.    

Radiolab is on YouTube! Catch up with new episodes and hear classics from our archive. Plus, find other cool things we did in the past — like miniseries, music videos, short films and animations, behind-the-scenes features, Radiolab live shows, and more. Take a look, explore and subscribe!

DOWNLOAD BRAILLE READY FILE HERE (https://zpr.io/YPQjmqjec5g7)

May 13, 2022
Debatable
60:40

In competitive debate future presidents, supreme court justices, and titans of industry pummel each other with logic and rhetoric. 

Unclasp your briefcase. It’s time for a showdown. Looking back on an episode originally aired in 2016, we take a good long look at the world of competitive college debate. 

This is Ryan Wash's story. He's a queer, Black, first-generation college student from Kansas City, Missouri who joined the debate team at Emporia State University on a whim. When he started going up against fast-talking, well-funded, “name-brand” teams, from places like Northwestern and Harvard, it was clear he wasn’t in Kansas anymore. So Ryan became the vanguard of a movement that made everything about debate debatable. In the end, he made himself a home in a strange and hostile land. Whether he was able to change what counts as rigorous academic argument … well, that’s still up for debate.

Special thanks to Will Baker, Myra Milam, John Dellamore, Sam Mauer, Tiffany Dillard Knox, Mary Mudd, Darren "Chief" Elliot, Jodee Hobbs, Rashad Evans and Luke Hill. 

Special thanks also to Torgeir Kinne Solsvik for use of the song h-lydisk / B Lydian from the album Geirr Tveitt Piano Works and Songs

Support Radiolab by becoming a member of The Lab today.    

Radiolab is on YouTube! Catch up with new episodes and hear classics from our archive. Plus, find other cool things we did in the past — like miniseries, music videos, short films and animations, behind-the-scenes features, Radiolab live shows, and more. Take a look, explore and subscribe!
May 06, 2022
Hello, My Name Is
71:51

As a species, we’re obsessed with names. They’re one of the first labels we get as kids. We name and rename absolutely everything around us. And these names carry our histories, they can open and close our eyes to the world around us, and they drag the weight of expectation and even irony along with them. This week on Radiolab, we’ve got six stories all about names. Horse names, the names of diseases, names for the beginning, and names for the end. Listen to “Hello, My Name Is” on Radiolab, wherever you find podcasts. 

Special thanks to Jim Wright, author of “The Real James Bond”, Tad Davis, Cole delCharco, Peter Frick-Wright, Alexa Rose Miller, Katherine De La Cruz, and Fahima Haque.

Members of The Lab, watch for an audio extra on your exclusive feeds, a poem written and read by Mary Szybist, whom Molly Webster interviewed for her story in this episode about endlings. It is titled “We Think We Do Not Have Medieval Eyes.” If you are not yet a member and would like to listen to it, you can join here.

Radiolab is on YouTube! Catch up with new episodes and hear classics from our archive. Plus, find other cool things we did in the past — like miniseries, music videos, short films and animations, behind-the-scenes features, Radiolab live shows, and more. Take a look, explore and subscribe!

DOWNLOAD BRAILLE READY FILE HERE (https://zpr.io/BmPeeLvvRDrD)


Citations:

The Emperor of All Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee

Warhorse: Cavalry in Ancient Warfare by Philip Sidnell

Check out ArtsPractica.com, a site focused on medical uncertainty. Alexa Rose Miller.


Apr 29, 2022
The Other Latif: Cuba-ish
64:56

Almost exactly twenty years ago, detainee 244 got transferred to Guantanamo Bay. Captured by American forces at the battle Tora Bora five months previous, Abdul Latif Nasser was shaved, hooded, shackled, diapered, and flown halfway across the world.

The Radiolab special series, The Other Latif, kicked off when one of our hosts, Latif Nasser, made a bizarre and shocking discovery. He shares his name with detainee 244. A man the U.S. government paints a terrifying picture of as Al-Qaeda’s top explosives expert, and one of the most important advisors to Osama bin Laden. Nasser’s lawyer claims, on the other hand, that he was at the wrong place at the wrong time, and that he was never even in Al-Qaeda. This clash launched our Latif into a years-long investigation, picking apart evidence, attempting to separate fact from fiction, and trying to uncover what the man with whom he shares a name actually did or didn’t do. Along the way, Radiolab’s Latif reflects on American values and his own religious past, and wonders how a fellow nerdy, suburban Muslim kid, may have gone down such a strikingly different path.

Episode 5: Cuba-ish 

To mark the solemn occasion of the other Latif's transfer to, "the legal equivalent of outer space," we thought we'd replay Cuba-ish, the fifth episode of our special series which first aired back in 2020. In this episode, our Latif heads to Guantanamo Bay to try to speak to his namesake. Before he gets there, he dives deep, seeking the answer to what seems like a simple question: why Cuba? Why in the world did the United States pick this sleepy military base in the Caribbean to house “the worst of the worst”?  

Support Radiolab by becoming a member of The Lab today.    

Radiolab is on YouTube! Catch up with new episodes and hear classics from our archive. Plus, find other cool things we did in the past — like miniseries, music videos, short films and animations, behind-the-scenes features, Radiolab live shows, and more. Take a look, explore and subscribe!

 

Apr 22, 2022
NULL
19:41

A one-word magical spell. Several years back, that’s exactly what Joseph Tartaro thought he’d discovered. It was a spell that, if used properly, promised to make one’s problems disappear. And so he crossed his fingers, uttered the word and cast the enchantment on himself. The result, however, was anything but magical.

Unbeknownst to Joseph, by unleashing this spell, he’d earned a lifetime membership into a cursed community. A clan made up of folks who, through no fault of their own, had become nameless and invisible. Today, the story of these unfortunate souls, the dark digital arts that took so much from them and the wizardry needed to give them new life.

Special thanks to Sarah Chasins, Tony Hoare, Brian Kernighan and to Patrick McKenzie for writing that wonderful list of assumptions programmers believe about names. And also to all the folks who spoke to us and emailed us with stories of their own ‘problematic’ names.

DOWNLOAD BRAILLE READY FILE HERE

Support Radiolab by becoming a member of The Lab today.    

Radiolab is on YouTube! Catch up with new episodes and hear classics from our archive. Plus, find other cool things we did in the past — like miniseries, music videos, short films and animations, behind-the-scenes features, Radiolab live shows, and more. Take a look, explore and subscribe!

Apr 15, 2022
In the Dust of This Planet
28:59

Horror, fashion, and the end of the world … In this episode, first aired in 2014, but maybe even more relevant today, things get weird as we explore the undercurrents of thought that link nihilists, beard-stroking philosophers, Jay-Z, and True Detective.

Today on Radiolab, a puzzle. Jad’s brother-in-law wrote a book called 'In The Dust of This Planet'.

It’s an academic treatise about the horror humanity feels as we realize that we are nothing but a speck in the universe. For a few years nobody read it. But then …

 

Then in a fashion magazine.

 

And then on Jay-Z's back. How? 

We talk nihilism with Eugene Thacker & Simon Critchley, leather jackets with June Ambrose, climate change with David Victor, and hope with the father of Transcendental Black Metal - Hunter Hunt Hendrix of the band Liturgy.

Also, check out WNYC Studio's On the Media episode Staring into the Abyss, in it Brooke Gladstone and Jad Abumrad continue their discussion of nihilism and its place in history.

You can find Eugene Thacker's 'In The Dust Of the Planet' at Zero Books

Support Radiolab by becoming a member of The Lab today.    

Radiolab is on YouTube! Catch up with new episodes and hear classics from our archive. Plus, find other cool things we did in the past — like miniseries, music videos, short films and animations, behind-the-scenes features, Radiolab live shows, and more. Take a look, explore and subscribe!

Apr 08, 2022
Inheritance
64:34

Once a kid is born, their genetic fate is pretty much sealed. Or is it? In this episode, originally aired in 2012, we put nature and nurture on a collision course and discover how outside forces can find a way inside us, and change not just our hearts and minds, but the basic biological blueprint that we pass on to future generations.

Support Radiolab by becoming a member of The Lab today.    

Radiolab is on YouTube! Catch up with new episodes and hear classics from our archive. Plus, find other cool things we did in the past — like miniseries, music videos, short films and animations, behind-the-scenes features, Radiolab live shows, and more. Take a look, explore and subscribe!

Apr 01, 2022
The Right Stuff
41:51

Since the beginning of the space program, we’ve always expected astronauts to be fully abled athletic overachievers who are one-part science-geek, two-parts triathlete – a mix the writer Tom Wolfe famously called “the right stuff.”

But what if, this whole time, we’ve had it all wrong?

In this episode, reporter Andrew Leland joins a blind linguistics professor named Sheri Wells-Jensen and a crew of eleven other disabled people on a mission to prove that disabled people have what it takes to go to space. And not only that, but that they may have an edge over non-disabled people. We follow the Mission AstroAccess crew members to Long Beach, California, where they hop on an airplane to take an electrifying flight that simulates zero-gravity – a method used by NASA to train astronauts – and afterwards learn that the biggest challenges to a future where space is accessible to all people may not be where they expected to find them. And our reporter Andrew, who is legally blind himself, confronts some unexpected conclusions of his own.

This episode was reported by Andrew Leland and produced by Maria Paz Gutierrez, Matt Kielty and Pat Walters. Jeremy Bloom contributed music and sound design. Production sound recording by Dan McCoy.

Special thanks to William Pomerantz, Sheyna Gifford, Jim Vanderploeg, Tim Bailey, and Bill Barry

Support Radiolab by becoming a member of The Lab today.    

Radiolab is on YouTube! Catch up with new episodes and hear classics from our archive. Plus, find other cool things we did in the past — like miniseries, music videos, short films and animations, behind-the-scenes features, Radiolab live shows, and more. Take a look, explore and subscribe!

DOWNLOAD BRAILLE READY FILE HERE (https://zpr.io/vWtJYGLn6UXm)

 

Citations in this episode

Multimedia:
Sheri Wells-Jensen’s SETI Institute presentation
Learn more about Mission AstroAccess
Other work by Andrew Leland

Articles:
Sheri Wells-Jensen’s, “The Case for Disabled Astronauts,” Scientific American

Mar 25, 2022
Stress
57:14

Stress can give your body a boost - raising adrenaline levels, pumping blood to the muscles, heightening our senses. And those sudden superpowers can be a boon when you’re running from a lion. But repeatedly dipping into that well can make you sick, even kill you. Since it feels like there’s been an extra bit of stress going around lately, we decided to replay this episode, originally aired back in 2005, which takes a long hard look at the body's system for getting out of trouble. And how in our modern, hyper-connected world, that system misfires and takes us from the frying pan, right into another, albeit entirely different, frying pan.

Stanford University neurologist (and part-time "baboonologist") Dr. Robert Sapolsky takes us through what happens on our insides when we stand in the wrong line at the supermarket, and offers a few coping strategies: gnawing on wood, beating the crap out of somebody, and having friends. Plus: the story of a singer who lost her voice, and an author stuck in a body that never grew up.

Support Radiolab by becoming a member of The Lab today.    

Radiolab is on YouTube! Catch up with new episodes and hear classics from our archive. Plus, find other cool things we did in the past — like miniseries, music videos, short films and animations, behind-the-scenes features, Radiolab live shows, and more. Take a look, explore and subscribe!

Mar 18, 2022
The Helen Keller Exorcism
63:47

Fantasy writer Elsa Sjunneson has been haunted by Helen Keller for nearly her entire life. Like Helen, Elsa is Deafblind, and growing up she was constantly compared to her. But for a million different reasons she hated that, because she felt different from her in a million different ways. Then, a year ago, an online conspiracy theory claiming Helen was a fraud exploded on TikTok, and suddenly Elsa found herself drawing her sword and jumping to Helen’s defense, setting off a chain of events that would bring her closer to the disability icon than she ever dreamt. For over a year, Elsa, Lulu and the Radiolab team dug through primary sources, talked to experts, even visited Helen’s birthplace Ivy Green, and discovered the real story of Helen Keller is far more complicated, mysterious and confounding than the simple myth of a young Deafblind girl rescued by her teacher Annie Sullivan. It’s a story of ghosts, surprises, a few tears, a bit of romance, some hard conversations, and a possibly psychic dog.

This episode was reported by Elsa Sjunneson and Lulu Miller. It was produced by Sindhu Gnanasambandan and Rachel Cusick, with help from Sarah Qari, Tanya Chawla, and Carolyn McClusker. Jeremy Bloom contributed music and sound design. Additional Mixing by Arianne Wack.

Special thanks to Georgina Kleege, Julia Bascom, Desiree Kocis, Peter C. Kunze, Andrew Leland, Sara Luterman, Alexander Richey, Will Healy, Nate Jones, Nate Peereboom, and Pamela Sabaugh (who was our voice of Helen Keller).

ASL TRANSCRIPTION


Support Radiolab by becoming a member of The Lab today.    

Radiolab is on YouTube! Catch up with new episodes and hear classics from our archive. Plus, find other cool things we did in the past — like miniseries, music videos, short films and animations, behind-the-scenes features, Radiolab live shows, and more. Take a look, explore and subscribe!

DOWNLOAD BRAILLE READY FILE HERE (https://zpr.io/s23JtuYxyrNA)

Citations in this episode

Books:
Elsa Sjunneson, Being Seen
Kim Nielsen, The Radical Lives of Helen Keller
Georgina Kleege, Blind Rage: Letters to Helen Keller
Katie Booth, The Invention of Miracles: language, power, and Alexander Graham Bell’s quest to end deafness
Haben Girma, Haben: The Deafblind Woman Who Conquered Harvard Law

Articles:

Susan Crutchfield, “
Play[ing] her part correctly: Helen Keller as Vaudevillian Freak,” Disability Studies Quarterly.
Desiree Kocis, “Did Helen Keller Fly A Plane?” (she did), Plane & Pilot Magazine.
Peter C. Kunze, “What We Talk about When We Talk about Helen Keller,” Children’s Literature Association Quarterly
The archives of the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB)

Mar 11, 2022
Life in a Barrel
53:23

This week, we flip the Disney story of life on its head thanks to a barrel of seawater, a 1970s era computer, and underwater geysers. It’s the chaos of life.

Latif, Lulu, and our Senior Producer Matt Kielty were all sitting on their own little stories until they got thrown into the studio, and had their cherished beliefs about the shape of life put on a collision course. From an accidental study of sea creatures, to the ambitions of Stephen J Gould, to an undercooked theory that captured the world’s imagination, we undo the seeming order of the living world and try to make some music out of the wreckage. (Bonus: Learn how Francis Crick really thought life got started on this planet).

This episode was reported by Latif Nasser, Matt Kielty, Heather Radke, Lulu Miller and Candice Wang. It was produced by Matt Kielty and Simon Adler. Sound and music from Matt Kielty, Simon Adler, and Jeremy Bloom, and dialogue mix by Arianne Wack.

Special thanks to Alan and Alida Goffinski for giving our chaos musical life in the song at the end of the episode.

Radiolab is on YouTube! Catch up with new episodes and hear classics from our archive. Plus, find other cool things we did in the past — like miniseries, music videos, short films and animations, behind-the-scenes features, Radiolab live shows, and more. Take a look, explore and subscribe!

Support Radiolab by becoming a member of The Lab today. 

Citations in this episode

Scientific Papers:
Elisa Beninca, Reinhard Heerkloss, et al, “Chaos in a long-term experiment with a plankton community” Nature (2008)
Hendrik Schubert, Reinhard Heerkloss, et al, “Chaos theory discloses triggers and drivers of plankton dynamics in a stable environment” Scientific Reports (2019)

Books:
Nick Lane, The Vital Question: Energy, Evolution, and the Origins of Complex Life
Francis Crick, Life Itself: Its Origin and Nature
Stephen Jay Gould: Full House: The Spread of Excellence from Plato to Darwin, and The Mismeasure of Man
David M. Raup, Extinction: Bad Genes or Bad Luck?
David Sepkoski, Rereading the Fossil Record: The Growth of Paleobiology as an Evolutionary Discipline

 

Mar 04, 2022
Speed
56:11

We live our lives at human speed, we experience and interact with the world on a human time scale. In this episode, which first aired in its entirety in the winter of 2013, we put ourselves through the paces. We examine a material that exists between two states of matter, take a ride on the death-defying roller coaster that is the stock market, open up our internal clocks of thought, and achieve mastery over the fastest thing in the universe.

Support Radiolab by becoming a member of The Lab today.    

Radiolab is on YouTube! Catch up with new episodes and hear classics from our archive. Plus, find other cool things we did in the past — like miniseries, music videos, short films and animations, behind-the-scenes features, Radiolab live shows, and more. Take a look, explore and subscribe!

 

Feb 25, 2022
The Wordless Place
26:36

This week, we turn to an expert who tromps the wilds of wordlessness. Lulu’s young son. In this essay, originally published for The Paris Review under the title “The Eleventh Word,” Lulu explores what is lost with the gaining of language. And how, in a very odd way, a fear of confusion and the unknown may begin with the advent of words. The Radiolab sound team brings this piece to life with original music, and at one point the words melt right out of the air.

Support Radiolab by becoming a member of The Lab today.

Radiolab is on YouTube! Catch up with new episodes and hear classics from our archive. Plus, find other cool things we did in the past — like miniseries, music videos, short films and animations, behind-the-scenes features, Radiolab live shows, and more. Take a look, explore and subscribe!

Feb 18, 2022
Hello
46:23

It's hard to start a conversation with a stranger—especially when that stranger is, well, different. He doesn't share your customs, celebrate your holidays, watch your TV shows, or even speak your language. Plus he has a blowhole.

In this episode, which originally aired in the summer of 2014, we try to make contact with some of the strangest strangers on our little planet: dolphins. Producer Lynn Levy eavesdrops on some human-dolphin conversations, from a studio apartment in the Virgin Islands to a research vessel in the Bermuda Triangle.

Support Radiolab by becoming a member of The Lab today.

Radiolab is on YouTube! Catch up with new episodes and hear classics from our archive. Plus, find other cool things we did in the past — like miniseries, music videos, short films and animations, behind-the-scenes features, Radiolab live shows, and more. Take a look, explore and subscribe!

Feb 11, 2022
Forests on Forests
24:06

For much of history, tree canopies were pretty much completely ignored by science. It was as if researchers said collectively, "It's just going to be empty up there, and we've got our hands full studying the trees down here! So why bother?!"

But then, around the mid-1980s, a few ecologists around the world got curious and started making their way up into the treetops using any means necessary (ropes, cranes, hot air dirigibles) to document all they could find. It didn't take long for them to realize not only was the forest canopy not empty, it was absolutely filled to the brim with life. You've heard of treehouses? How about tree gardens?! 

This week we journey up into the sky and discover Forests above the forest. We learn about the secret powers of these sky gardens from ecologist Korena Mafune, and we follow Nalini Nadkarni as she makes a ground-breaking discovery that changes how we understand what trees are capable of. 

P.S. This episode is a layer cake of arboreal surprises (including the reappearance of a certain retired host). 

A few visual tre(e)ats: 

We first learned about the magical world of the canopy from this beautiful video from Michael Werner, Joe Hanson, and the PBS Overview team. It features Korena Mafune’s research up in the treetops, as well as the people who have dedicated their lives to saving what’s left of the old growth forests. We highly recommend checking it out! 

And, if you’re hankering to go climb a tree after this episode, you might enjoy browsing Hallie Bateman’s wonderfully illustrated guide to the best climbing trees in NYC for a little inspiration.

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Feb 04, 2022
The First Radiolab
84:26

Jad started Radiolab roughly 20 years ago. And now he is stepping aside from hosting and producing the show to replenish, to think, to rock in his chair and be with his kids and wife, and maybe make some music. The news has been all over twitter and there’s a letter from Jad and our hosts Latif and Lulu on the website. But in this episode, Jad talks through his decision to leave and the future of the show with Lulu and Latif. And then, as a parting gift, we play him the very first episode of Radiolab (“The Radio Lab” as he called it then). He tells us about biking the CDs over the Brooklyn bridge just before the show was supposed to air, reading the news and weather between segments, and then we just sit back together and listen to where it all began.

Jad, for those of us who have been radically changed by the thing you put out into the world, we are both sad to lose you in our ears and endlessly grateful for what you’ve given us.

Jan 28, 2022
News and Gratitude

 

   

 

 

 

Jan 26, 2022
The 11th: A Letter From George
23:04

Last week, Lulu heard an interview that trapped her in her car. She decided to play it for Latif.

The interview – originally from a podcast called The Relentless Picnic, but presented by one of Lulu’s current podcast faves, The 11th – is part of an episode of mini pep talks designed to help us all get through this cold, dark, second-pandemic-winter-in-a-row. But the segment that Lulu brings Latif is about someone trying to get through something arguably much more difficult, something a pep talk can’t solve, but that a couple friends — and one very generous stranger — might be able to help make a little more bearable.

The episode of The 11th this comes from is “I’m Here to Pep You Up.” The Relentless Picnic is currently running a series of episodes called CABIN, an audio exploration of isolation, which you can listen to here. The organization where Matt volunteers as a counselor is called SUDEP. The Lu Olkowski story Lulu recommends at the end of the episode is “Grandpa,” and the lobster story Latif recommends is “The Luckiest Lobster.”

Special Thanks:

Eric Mennel, senior producer at The 11th, and host of the podcast Stay Away from Matthew Magill.

Lu Olkowski, voracious listener, super reporter, and host of the podcast Love Me.

Radiolab is on YouTube! Catch up with new episodes and hear classics from our archive. Plus, find other cool things we did in the past — like miniseries, music videos, short films and animations, behind-the-scenes features, Radiolab live shows, and more. Take a look, explore and subscribe!

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Jan 21, 2022
Darkode
38:34

It would seem that hackers today can do just about anything they want - from turning on the cellphone in your pocket to holding your life's work hostage. Cyber criminals today have more sophisticated tools, have learned to work collaboratively around the world and have found innovative ways to remain deep undercover in the internet's shadows. This episode, we shine a light into those shadows to see the world from the perspectives of both cybercrime victims and perpetrators.

First we meet mother-daughter duo Alina and Inna Simone, who tell us about being held hostage by criminals who have burrowed into their lives from half a world away. Along the way we learn about the legally sticky spot that unwitting accomplices like Will Wheeler find themselves in.

Then reporter and author Joseph Menn tells us about the surprisingly lucrative professional hacker structure in places throughout the former Soviet Union. Finally, the co-creator of one of the most notorious online marketplaces to ever exist speaks to us and NPR cyber-crime expert Dina Temple-Raston about how a young suburban Boy Scout can turn into a world renowned black hat hacker.

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Radiolab is on YouTube! Catch up with new episodes and hear classics from our archive. Plus, find other cool things we did in the past — like miniseries, music videos, short films and animations, behind-the-scenes features, Radiolab live shows, and more. Take a look, explore and subscribe!

Jan 14, 2022
Worst. Year. Ever.
24:38

What was the worst year to be alive on planet Earth?  

We make the case for 536 AD, which set off a cascade of catastrophes that is almost too horrible to imagine. A supervolcano. The disappearance of shadows. A failure of bread. Plague rats. Using evidence painstakingly gathered around the world - from Mongolian tree rings to Greenlandic ice cores to Mayan artifacts - we paint a portrait of what scientists and historians think went wrong, and what we think it felt like to be there in real time. (Spoiler: not so hot.)  We hear a hymn for the dead from the ancient kingdom of Axum, the closest we can get to the sound of grief from a millennium and a half ago.

The horrors of 536 make us wonder about the parallels and perpendiculars with our own time: does it make you feel any better knowing that your suffering is part of a global crisis? Or does it just make things worse?"

Thanks to reporter Ann Gibbons whose Science article "Eruption made 536 ‘the worst year to be alive" got us interested in the first place. 

In case you want to learn more about 536, here are some other sources: 

Timothy P. Newfield, “The Climate Downturn of 536-50” in the Palgrave Handbook on Climate History

Dallas Abbott et al., “What caused terrestrial dust loading and climate downturns between A.D. 533 and 540?”

Joel Gunn and Alesio Ciarini (editors), “The A.D. 536 Crisis: A 21st Century Perspective”

Antti Arjava, “The Mystery Cloud of 536 CE in the Mediterranean Sources” 

And for more on the composer Yared, watch Meklit Hadero’s TED talk The Unexpected Beauty of Everyday Sounds”

Credits: This episode was reported by Latif Nasser and Lulu Miller, and produced by Simon Adler.  With sound and music from Simon Adler and Jeremy Bloom.

Special Thanks: Thanks to Joel Gunn, Dallas Abbott, Mathias Nordvig, Emma Rigby, Robert Dull, Daniel Yacob, Kay Shelemey, Jacke Phillips, Meklit Hadero, and Joan Aruz.

Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate

Radiolab is on YouTube! Catch up with new episodes and hear classics from our archive. Plus, find other cool things we did in the past — like miniseries, music videos, short films and animations, behind-the-scenes features, Radiolab live shows, and more. Take a look, explore and subscribe!

Jan 07, 2022
Flop Off
75:22

This past year was a flop. From questionable blockbuster reboots to supply chain shenanigans to worst of all, omnipresent COVID variants. But, in a last ditch effort to flip the flop, we at Radiolab have dredged up the most mortifying, most cringeworthy, most gravity-defying flops we could find. From flops at a community pool to flops at the White House, from a flop that derails a career to flops that give NBA players a sneaky edge, from flops that’ll send you seeking medical advice to THE flopped flop that in a way enabled us all. Take a break from all the disappointment and flop around with us.

Special Thanks to: Kaitlin Murphy, Dana Stevens, David Novak, Pablo Pinero Stillman

Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate

Dec 31, 2021
Vanishing Words
24:02

When Alana Casanova-Burgess set out to make a podcast series about Puerto Rico, she struggled with what to call it. Until one word came to mind, a word that captures a certain essence of life in Puerto Rico, but eludes easy translation into English. We talk to Alana about her series, and that particular word, then turn to an old story about treating words as signals of something happening just beneath the surface. 

Agatha Christie's clever detective novels may reveal more about the inner workings of the human mind than she intended. According to Dr. Ian Lancashire at the University of Toronto, the Queen of Crime left behind hidden clues to the real-life mysteries of human aging in her writing. Meanwhile, Dr. Kelvin Lim and Dr. Serguei Pakhomov from the University of Minnesota add to the intrigue with the story of an unexpected find in a convent archive that could someday help pinpoint very early warning signs for Alzheimer's disease and dementia. Sister Alberta Sheridan, a 94-year-old Nun Study participant, reads an essay she wrote more than 70 years ago.

La Brega update was produced by Maria Paz Gutierrez

Dec 17, 2021
Return of Alpha Gal
57:18

Tuck your napkin under your chin.  We’re about to serve up a tale of love, loss, and lamb chops - with a side of genetic modification.

Several years ago we told a story about Amy Pearl. For as long as she could remember, Amy loved meat in all its glorious cuts and marbled flavors. And then one day, for seemingly no reason, her body wouldn’t tolerate it.  No steaks. No brisket. No weenies. It made no sense: why couldn’t she eat something that she had routinely enjoyed for decades? 

It turned out Amy was not alone. And the answer to her mysterious allergy involved maps, a dancing lone star tick, and a very particular sugar called Alpha Gal. 

In this update, we discover that our troubles with Alpha Gal go way beyond food. We go to NYU Langone Health hospital to see the second ever transplant of a kidney from a pig into a human, talk to some people at Revivicor, the company that bred the pig in question, and go back to Amy to find out what she thinks about this brave new world.

The original episode was reported by Latif Nasser, and produced by Annie McEwen and Matt Kielty. Sound design and scoring from Dylan Keefe, Annie McEwen, and Matt Kielty. Mix by Dylan Keefe with Arianne Wack.

The update was reported and produced by Sarah Qari. It was sound designed, scored, and mixed by Jeremy Bloom. 

Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.   

Dec 10, 2021
Animal Minds
59:09

In this hour of Radiolab, stories of cross-species communication.

When we gaze into the eyes of a wild animal, or even a beloved pet, can we ever really know what they might be thinking? Is it naive to assume they're experiencing something close to human emotions? Or is it ridiculous to assume that they AREN'T feeling something like that? We get the story of a rescued whale that may have found a way to say thanks, ask whether dogs feel guilt, and wonder if a successful predator may have fallen in love with a photographer.

Nov 26, 2021
Mixtape: Help?
48:22

In tape five, three stories: first, a tale of how the cassette tape supercharged the self-help industry. Second, cassettes filled with history make an epic journey across Africa with a group of Lost Boys. And finally, Simon meets up with fellow Radiolabber David Gebel to dig through an old box of mixtapes and rediscover the unique power of these bygone love letters.

Mixtape was reported, produced, scored and sound designed by me, Simon Adler, with music throughout by me. Unending reporting and production assistance was provided by Eli Cohen.

Special Thanks to: Shad Helmstetter, Vic Conan, Glenna Salisbury, Jerry Rosen, Richard Petty, Sharon Arkin, Angela Impey, William Mulwill for sharing his cassettes with me, and to the British library for sharing some of their recordings from their South Sudan collection, which is housed at the British Library Sound Archive.

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Nov 19, 2021
Mixtape: Cassetternet
58:18

In 1983, Simon Goodwin had a strange thought. Would it be possible to broadcast computer software over the radio? If so, could listeners record it off the air and onto a cassette tape? This experiment and dozens of others in the early 80s created a series of cassette fueled, analog internets. They copied and moved information like never before, upended power structures and created a poisonous social network that brought down a regime. 

In tape four of Mixtape, we examine how these early internet came about, and how the societal and cultural impacts of these analog information networks can still be felt today.

Mixtape is reported, produced, scored and sound designed by Simon Adler with original music throughout by Simon. Top tier reporting and production assistance was provided by Eli Cohen.

Special thanks to: Alex Sayf Cummings, Martin Maly, Piotr Gawrysiak, Joe Tozer, James Gleick, Jason Rezaian, Gholam Khiabany and Mo Jazi. And to Arash Aziz for helping us every step of the way with our story about Khomeini. And Simon Goodwin for making us that secret code. And to Micah Loewinger to tipping me off to these software radio broadcasts. 

Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.   

 

Nov 12, 2021
Mixtape: The Wandering Soul
40:36

As the Vietnam war dragged on, the US military began desperately searching for any vulnerability in their North Vietnamese enemy. In 1964, they found it. It was an old Vietnamese folktale involving a ghost, eternal damnation and fear - a tailor made weaponizable myth. And so, armed with tape recorders and microphones, the military set out to win the war by bringing this ghost story to life.

Today, the story of these efforts and their ghosts that still haunt us today. 

Mixtape is reported, produced, scored and sound designed by Simon Adler with original music throughout by Simon. Indispensable reporting and production assistance was provided by Eli Cohen.

This episode was produced by Annie McEwen, with original music by Annie. Original reporting was contributed by Trung Dung Vo and Nguyễn Vân Hà.

Special thanks to: Allison Boccia, Jared Tracy and Herb Friedman. And to Mathew Campbell for introducing me to the Wandering Soul tape to begin with. And to Erik Villard for all his help pulling those tapes and voices for us. 

Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate. 

Nov 05, 2021
Mixtape: Jack and Bing
36:33

In 1946 Bing Crosby was the king of media. He was the movie star, the pop star and his radio show was reaching a third of American living rooms each week.  But then, it all started to fall apart. His ratings were plummeting and his fans were fleeing. Bing however, was not going down without a fight. 

Today, the story of how Bing Crosby and some stolen Nazi technology won his audience back, changed media forever and accidentally broke reality along the way. 

Mixtape is reported, produced, scored and sound designed by Simon Adler with original music throughout by Simon Adler. Invaluable reporting and production assistance was provided by Eli Cohen.

Special thanks to: Michele Hilmes, Pete Hammer, Rich Flores, Mara Mills, Jonathan Sterne, Claudia Mewes. Though their voices weren’t in the piece, input certainly was.

And to Mary Crosby and Robert Bader, for opening up Bing’s archive for us, and enabling us to fill this episode with so much of Bing’s music.


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Oct 29, 2021
Mixtape: Dakou
51:05

Through the 1980s, the vast majority of people in China had never heard western music, save for John Denver, the Carpenters, and a few other artists included on the hand-picked list of songs sanctioned by the Communist Party. But in the late 90s, a mysterious man named Professor Ye made a discovery at a plastic recycling center in Heping.

In episode 1 of Mixtape, we talk to Chinese historians, music critics, and the musicians who took the damaged plastic scraps of western music, changed the musical landscape of China, and reimagined rock and roll in ways we never could’ve imagined.

 

Mixtape is reported, produced, scored and sound designed by Simon Adler with original music throughout by Simon. Invaluable reporting and production assistance was provided by Eli Cohen. Additional reporting by Noriko Ishigaki, Rebecca Kanthor and our amazing anonymous Chinese reporter. 

 

Special thanks to: Paul de Gay, Juliette Kristensen, Rebecca Tuhus-Dubrow, Nick Lyons, Michael Bull, Jiro Ishikawa, Hayley Zhao, Megan Smalley and Deanne Totto.

This episode would not have happened without each and every one of them.

Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate  

Oct 22, 2021
Of Bombs and Butterflies
41:02

Ecologist Nick Haddad was sitting in his new office at North Carolina State University when the phone rang. On the other end of the line was... The U.S. Army. The Army folks told him, “Look, there’s this endangered butterfly on our base at Fort Bragg, and it’s the only place in the world that it exists. But it’s about to go extinct. And we need your help to save it.” 

Nick had never even heard of the butterfly. In fact, he barely knew much about butterflies in general. Nonetheless, he said yes to Uncle Sam. “How hard could it be?” he wondered. Turns out, pretty hard. He'd have to trick beavers, dodge bombs, and rethink the fundamental nature of life and death in order to rescue this butterfly before it disappeared forever.

**CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that the Army moved a beaver; in truth, they killed it.  We also overstated the current tally of St Francis Satyrs off range; they are around 200, not 800. The audio has been adjusted to reflect these changes.**

This episode was reported by Latif Nasser, and produced by Rachael Cusick. Original music by Jeremy Bloom. Mixing by Arianne Wack.

Special thanks to: Snooki Puli, Cita Escalano, Jeffrey Glassberg, Margot Williams, Mark Romyn, Elizabeth Long, Laura Verhegge, the Public Affairs and Endangered Species Branches at Fort Bragg.

Want to learn more? you can ...
... read Nick Haddad’s book The Last Butterflies: A Scientist’s Quest to Save a Rare and Vanishing Creature
... take a peek at Thomas Kral’s original 1989 paper about the Saint Francis Satyr
... visit Fort Bragg's webpage about the Saint Francis Satyr
 

Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate   

Oct 15, 2021
Oliver Sipple
63:29

One morning, Oliver Sipple went out for a walk. A couple hours later, to his own surprise, he saved the life of the President of the United States. But in the days that followed, Sipple’s split-second act of heroism turned into a rationale for making his personal life into political opportunity. What happens next makes us wonder what a moment, or a movement, or a whole society can demand of one person. And how much is too much? 

Through newly unearthed archival tape, we hear Sipple himself grapple with some of the most vexing topics of his day and ours - privacy, identity, the freedom of the press - not to mention the bonds of family and friendship. 

Reported by Latif Nasser and Tracie Hunte. Produced by Matt Kielty, Annie McEwen, Latif Nasser and Tracie Hunte.

Special thanks to Jerry Pritikin, Michael Yamashita, Stan Smith, Duffy Jennings; Ann Dolan, Megan Filly and Ginale Harris at the Superior Court of San Francisco; Leah Gracik, Karyn Hunt, Jesse Hamlin, The San Francisco Bay Area Television Archive, Mike Amico, Jennifer Vanasco and Joey Plaster.

Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.

Episode originally published 09/21/2017

Oct 01, 2021
HEAVY METAL
42:34

Today we have a story about the sometimes obvious but sometimes sneaky effects of the way that we humans rearrange the elemental stuff around us. Reporter Avir Mitra and science journalist Lydia Denworth bring us a story about how one man’s relentless pursuit of a deep truth about the Earth led to an obsession that really changed the very air we breathe.

This episode was reported by Avir Mitra, and produced by Matt Kielty, Becca Bressler, Rachael Cusick, and Maria Paz Gutiérrez.

Special thanks to Cliff Davidson, Paul M. Sutter, Denton Ebel, and Sam Kean. 


Support Radiolab by becoming a member of The Lab today.    

Radiolab is on YouTube! Catch up with new episodes and hear classics from our archive. Plus, find other cool things we did in the past — like miniseries, music videos, short films and animations, behind-the-scenes features, Radiolab live shows, and more. Take a look, explore and subscribe!


 

Sep 24, 2021
In the Running
19:33

Diane Van Deren is one of the best ultra-runners in the world, and it all started with a seizure. In this short, Diane tells us how her disability gave rise to an extraordinary ability.

For Diane Van Deren, a charming mother of three, daily life is a struggle. But as soon as she steps outdoors, she's capable of amazing feats. She can run for days on end with no sleep, covering hundreds of miles in extreme conditions. Reporter Mark Phillips heads to Colorado to get to know Diane, and to try to figure out what makes her so unstoppable.

Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate. 

 

 

Sep 17, 2021
60 Words, 20 Years
69:27

It has now been 20 years since September 11th, 2001. So we’re bringing you a Peabody Award-winning story from our archives about one sentence, written in the hours after the attacks, that has led to the longest war in U.S. history. We examine how just 60 words of legal language have blurred the line between war and peace.

In the hours after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, a lawyer sat down in front of a computer and started writing a legal justification for taking action against those responsible. The language that he drafted and that President George W. Bush signed into law - called the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) -  has at its heart one single sentence, 60 words long. Over the last decade, those 60 words have become the legal foundation for the "war on terror."

In this collaboration with BuzzFeed, reporter Gregory Johnsen tells us the story of how this has come to be one of the most important, confusing, troubling sentences of the last two decades. We go into the meetings that took place in the chaotic days just after 9/11, speak with Congresswoman Barbara Lee and former Congressman Ron Dellums about the vote on the AUMF. We hear from former White House and State Department lawyers John Bellinger & Harold Koh. We learn how this legal language unleashed Guantanamo, Navy Seal raids and drone strikes. And we speak with journalist Daniel Klaidman, legal expert Benjamin Wittes and Virginia Senator Tim Kaine about how these words came to be interpreted, and what they mean for the future of war and peace.

Finally, we check back in with Congresswoman Lee, and talk to Yale law professor and national security expert Oona Hathaway, about how to move on from the original sixty words.

Original episode produced by Matt Kielty and Kelsey Padgett with original music by Dylan Keefe. Update reported and produced by Sarah Qari and Soren Wheeler.

Special thanks to Brian Finucane.

Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate. 

Sep 10, 2021
The Unsilencing
28:56

Multiple sclerosis, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, even psoriasis — these are diseases in which the body begins to attack itself, and they all have one thing in common: they affect women more than men. Most autoimmune disorders do. And not just by a little bit, often by a lot; in some cases, as much as sixteen times more. But why? On today’s episode, we talk to scientists trying to answer that question. We go back 100 million years, to when our placenta first evolved and consider how it might have shaped our immune system. We dive deep into the genome, to stare at one of the most famous chromosomes: the X. And we also try to unravel a mystery — why is it that for some females, autoimmune disorders seemingly disappear during pregnancy?

This episode was reported by Molly Webster, and produced by Sindhu Gnanasambandan and Molly Webster. The Gonads theme song was written, performed, and produced by Majel Connery and Alex Overington. 

Looking for something else to listen to? We suggest pairing “The Unsilencing” with “Everybody’s Got One,” an episode about an unknown super-organ that nobody on the planet would be here without: the placenta.

Want to learn more? You can …
...check out a Montserrat Anguera XX study,
...read Melissa Wilson’s placental, pregnancy hypothesis,
…and get a primer on Rhonda Voskuhl’s estriol & Multiple Sclerosis work.

 

Support Radiolab by becoming a member of The Lab today.

Aug 26, 2021
Everybody’s Got One
29:21

We all think we know the story of pregnancy. Sperm meets egg, followed by nine months of nurturing, nesting, and quiet incubation. But this story isn’t the nursery rhyme we think it is. In a way, it’s a struggle, almost like a tiny war. And right on the front lines of that battle is another major player on the stage of pregnancy that not a single person on the planet would be here without. An entirely new organ: the placenta.

In this episode we take you on a journey through the 270-day life of this weird, squishy, gelatinous orb, and discover that it is so much more than an organ. It’s a foreign invader. A piece of meat. A friend and parent. And it’s perhaps the most essential piece in the survival of our kind.

This episode was reported by Heather Radke and Becca Bressler, and produced by Becca Bressler and Pat Walters, with help from Matt Kielty and Maria Paz Gutierrez. Additional reporting by Molly Webster.

Special thanks to Diana Bianchi, Julia Katz, Sam Behjati, Celia Bardwell-Jones, Mathilde Cohen, Hannah Ingraham, Pip Lipkin, and Molly Fassler.

 

Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.  

 

For cool new research on the placenta:

Check out Harvey’s latest paper published with Julia Katz.

Sam Behjati's latest paper on the placenta as a "genetic dumping ground". 

Aug 20, 2021
Gonads: Dutee
46:13

In 2014, India’s Dutee Chand was a rising female track and field star, crushing national records. But then, that summer, something unexpected happened: she failed a gender test. And was banned from the sport. Before she knew it, Dutee was thrown into the middle of a controversy that started long before her, and continues on today: how to separate males and females in sport. First aired in 2018, Dutee and the story of female athletes in sport are back in the spotlight this week, at the Tokyo Olympics. Join us for an update on Dutee’s second Olympic games, and the continued role testosterone has in shaping who is on the track, and who is off. 

This story was originally released as part of Gonads, a six-part series on the parts of us that make more of us. It is a companion piece to Gonads, episode 5: Dana.

This update was reported by Molly Webster, with reporting and producing by Sarah Qari.

"Dutee" was reported by Molly Webster, with co-reporting and translation by Sarah Qari. It was produced by Pat Walters, with production help from Jad Abumrad and Rachael Cusick. The Gonads theme was written, performed, and produced by Majel Connery and Alex Overington.

Special thanks to Geertje Mak, Maayan Sudai, Andrea Dunaif, Bhrikuti Rai, Joe Osmundson, and Payoshni Mitra. Plus, former Olympic runner Madeleine Pape, who is currently studying regulations around female, transgender, and intersex individuals in sport.

Radiolab is supported in part by Science Sandbox, a Simons Foundation initiative dedicated to engaging everyone with the process of science. And the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, enhancing public understanding of science and technology in the modern world. More information about Sloan at www.sloan.org.

Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate. 

Aug 06, 2021
The Queen of Dying
60:48

If you’ve ever lost someone, or watched a medical drama in the last 15 years, you’ve probably heard of The Five Stages of Grief. They’re sort of the world’s worst consolation prize for loss. But last year, we began wondering… Where did these stages come from in the first place?

Turns out, Elisabeth Kübler-Ross. But the story is much, much more complicated than that. Those stages of grieving? They actually started as stages of dying. After learning that, producer Rachael Cusick tumbled into a year-long journey through the life and work of the incredibly complicated and misunderstood woman who single-handedly changed the way all of us face dying, and the way we deal with being left behind.

Special Note: Our friends over at Death Sex and Money have put together a very special companion to this story, featuring Rachael talking about this story with her grandmother.  Check it out here.

This episode was reported and produced by Rachael Cusick, with production help from Carin Leong.

This story wouldn’t have been possible without the folks you heard from in the episode, and the many, many people who touched this story, including: Anne Adams, Andrew Aronson, Audrey Gordon, Barbara Hogenson, Basit Qari, Bill Weese, Bob McGan, Carey Gauzens, Clifford Edwards, Cristina McGinniss, Dorothy Holinger, Frank Ostaseski, Ira Byock, Jamie Munson, Jessica Weisberg, Jillian Tullis, Joanna Treichler, Jonathan Green, Ken Bridbord, Ladybird Morgan, Laurel Braitman, Lawrence Lincoln, Leah Siegel, Liese Groot, Linda Mount, Lyn Frumkin, Mark Kuczewski, Martha Twaddle, Peter Nevraumont, Rosalie Roder, Sala Hilaire, Stefan Haupt, Stephanie Riley, Stephen Connor, and Tracie Hunte.

Special thanks to all the folks who shared music for this episode, including:

Lisa Stoll, who shared her Alpine horn music with us for this episode. You can hear more of her music here.

Cliff Edwards, who shared original music from Deanna Edwards.

The Martin Hayes Quartet, who shared the last bit of music you hear in the piece that somehow puts a world of emotion into one beautiful tune.

And an extra special thank you to the folks over at Stanford University - Ben Stone, David Magnus, Karl Lorenz, Maren Monsen -  the caretakers of Elisabeth’s archival collection who made it possible to rummage through their library from halfway across the country. You can read more about the collection here.

To learn more about Elisabeth and the folks who are furthering her work, you can visit the Elisabeth Kübler-Ross Foundation website here.

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Jul 23, 2021
Breaking News about The Other Latif
2:01

A major development in the case of Guantanamo detainee Abdul Latif Nasser.

To listen to our series about him, go to theotherlatif.org.

Jul 19, 2021
G: Unfit
53:35

In the past few weeks, most people have probably seen Britney Spears' name or face everywhere. When she stood in front of a judge (virtually) and protested the conservatorship she's been living under for the past 13 years, one harrowing detail in particular stood out. She told the judge, "I was told right now in the conservatorship, I'm not able to get married or have a baby." Today, we look back at an old episode where we explore why it is that hundreds of thousands of people can have their reproductive rights denied...and spoiler: it goes back to Darwin.

When a law student named Mark Bold came across a Supreme Court decision from the 1920s that allowed for the forced sterilization of people deemed “unfit,” he was shocked to discover that it had never been overturned. His law professors told him the case, Buck v Bell, was nothing to worry about, that the ruling was in a kind of legal limbo and could never be used against people. But he didn’t buy it. In this episode we follow Mark on a journey to one of the darkest consequences of humanity’s attempts to measure the human mind and put people in boxes, following him through history, science fiction and a version of eugenics that’s still very much alive today, and watch as he crusades to restore a dash of moral order to the universe.

This episode was produced by Matt Kielty, Lulu Miller and Pat Walters. 

Special thanks to Sara Luterman, Lynn Rainville, Alex Minna Stern, Steve Silberman and Lydia X.Z. Brown.

Radiolab’s “G” is supported in part by Science Sandbox, a Simons Foundation initiative dedicated to engaging everyone with the process of science.

Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate
Jul 15, 2021
The Vanishing of Harry Pace: Episode 6
27:09

Lift Every Voice. 

Black Swan Records was first to record the anthem Lift Every Voice and Sing. From a family's Thanksgiving dinner, we portal through to the song's past, present, and future.

The Vanishing of Harry Pace was created and produced by Shima Oliaee and Jad Abumrad. 

This series was produced in collaboration with author Kiese Laymon, scholar Imani Perry, writer Cord Jefferson, WQXR’s Terrance McKnight, and WNYC's Jami Floyd. Based on the book Black Swan Blues: the Hard Rise and Brutal Fall of America’s First Black Owned Record Label by Paul Slade. Featuring interviews with Pace's descendants and over forty musicians, historians, writers, and musicologists, all of whom grapple with Pace’s enduring legacy.

Thank you to young Miles Francis and his family for bringing our Thanksgiving scene to life. 

This episode features the book May We Forever Stand written by Imani Perry, all about the Black National Anthem.

Jul 09, 2021
The Vanishing of Harry Pace: Episode 5
42:23

Roland Hayes and the Lost Generation. 

Here’s the extraordinary story of Roland Hayes, another great (and largely forgotten) creator of new cosmologies.

The Vanishing of Harry Pace was created and produced by Shima Oliaee and Jad Abumrad. 

This series was produced in collaboration with author Kiese Laymon, scholar Imani Perry, writer Cord Jefferson, WQXR’s Terrance McKnight, and WNYC's Jami Floyd. Based on the book Black Swan Blues: the Hard Rise and Brutal Fall of America’s First Black Owned Record Label by Paul Slade. Featuring interviews with Pace's descendants and over forty musicians, historians, writers, and musicologists, all of whom grapple with Pace’s enduring legacy.

This episode featured scenes from Christopher Brooks' and Robert Sims' biography, Roland Hayes: The Legacy of an American Tenor. Thank you to actor William Jackson Harper for helping us bring Berlin to life. 

This episode featured the following music:

Robert Sims Sings the Spirituals of Roland Hayes

Bill Doggett's collection of Black Swan records 

Black Swans: The First Recordings of Black Classical Music Performers 

Du Bist Die Ruh by Roland Hayes 

Were You There by Roland Hayes 

Vesti La Giubba by Roland Hayes

Jul 02, 2021
The Vanishing of Harry Pace: Episode 4
12:34

Our Harlem Moon. 

In this spin-off tale, Ethel Waters hijacks a degrading song and makes the music her own.

The Vanishing of Harry Pace was created and produced by Shima Oliaee and Jad Abumrad. 

This series was produced in collaboration with author Kiese Laymon, scholar Imani Perry, writer Cord Jefferson, WQXR’s Terrance McKnight, and WNYC's Jami Floyd. Based on the book Black Swan Blues: the Hard Rise and Brutal Fall of America’s First Black Owned Record Label by Paul Slade. Featuring interviews with Pace's descendants and over forty musicians, historians, writers, and musicologists, all of whom grapple with Pace’s enduring legacy.

Thank you to our podcast friends at Throughline for featuring our series on their show. Check out their feed for an exclusive behind-the-scenes interview about the series with Rund, Ramtin, Jad and Shima.

Jun 29, 2021
The Vanishing of Harry Pace: Episode 3
41:30

Black No More, White No More. 

We follow Harry's grandkids and great grandkids as they grapple with his legacy in their own lives. 

The Vanishing of Harry Pace was created and produced by Shima Oliaee and Jad Abumrad. 

This series was produced in collaboration with author Kiese Laymon, scholar Imani Perry, writer Cord Jefferson, WQXR’s Terrance McKnight, and WNYC's Jami Floyd. Based on the book Black Swan Blues: the Hard Rise and Brutal Fall of America’s First Black Owned Record Label by Paul Slade. Featuring interviews with Pace's descendants and over forty musicians, historians, writers, and musicologists, all of whom grapple with Pace’s enduring legacy.

Jun 26, 2021
The Vanishing of Harry Pace: Episode 2
43:01

Dreams Deferred. 

The story of the post Black Swan years. We follow Harry’s Supreme Court battle to desegregate the South Side of Chicago, and then the mysterious decision which forces him into seclusion, before his untimely death.

The Vanishing of Harry Pace was created and produced by Shima Oliaee and Jad Abumrad. 

This series was produced in collaboration with author Kiese Laymon, scholar Imani Perry, writer Cord Jefferson, WQXR’s Terrance McKnight, and WNYC's Jami Floyd. Based on the book Black Swan Blues: the Hard Rise and Brutal Fall of America’s First Black Owned Record Label by Paul Slade. Featuring interviews with Pace's descendants and over forty musicians, historians, writers, and musicologists, all of whom grapple with Pace’s enduring legacy.

Jun 19, 2021
The Vanishing of Harry Pace: Episode 1
66:04

The Rise and Fall of Black Swan. 

It was Motown before Motown, FUBU before FUBU: Black Swan Records, the record company founded by Harry Pace.

The Vanishing of Harry Pace was created and produced by Shima Oliaee and Jad Abumrad. 

Harry Pace founded Black Swan Records exactly 100 years ago. Pace launched the career of Ethel Waters, inadvertently invented the term rock n roll, played an important role in W.C. Handy becoming "Father of the Blues," inspired Ebony and Jet magazines, and helped desegregate the South Side of Chicago in an epic Supreme Court battle. Then, he disappeared.  The Vanishing of Harry Pace is a series about the phenomenal but forgotten man who changed the American music scene. It's a story about betrayal, family, hidden identities, and a time like no other.

This series was produced in collaboration with author Kiese Laymon, scholar Imani Perry, screenwriter Cord Jefferson, and WQXR’s Terrance McKnight. Jami Floyd is our consulting producer; our fact checker is Natalie Meade. Peter Pace lent his voice for our readings. Based on the book Black Swan Blues: the Hard Rise and Brutal Fall of America’s First Black Owned Record Label by Paul Slade. The series features interviews with Pace's descendants and over forty musicians, historians, writers, and musicologists, all of whom grapple with Pace’s enduring legacy.

This series is also a partnership with Radio Diaries.  

Jun 18, 2021
Breath
91:03

We’ve just barely made it to the other side of a year that took our collective breaths away. So more than ever we felt that this was the time to go deep on life’s rhythmic dance partner. Today we huff and we puff through a whole stack of stories about breath. We talk to scientists, musicians, activists, and breath mint experts, and try to climb into the very center of this thing we all do, are all doing right now, and now, and now. 

This episode was reported and produced by Annie McEwen, Matt Kielty, and Molly Webster.

Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate 


Further reading: 

Alice Wong’s book Disability Visibility: First-Person Stories From the 21st Century

Here’s a speech Alice gave when first referring to her body as an oracle. 

And for more on ventilator allocation in NY State, check out this article by the Gothamist.

 

 

Jun 11, 2021
The Rhino Hunter
52:10

Back in 2014, Corey Knowlton paid $350,000 for a hunting trip to Namibia to shoot and kill an endangered species.  He’s a professional hunter, who guides hunts all around the world, so going to Africa would be nothing new.  The target on the other hand would be. And so too, he quickly found, would be the attention. 

This episode, producer Simon Adler follows Corey as he dodges death threats and prepares to pull the trigger.  Along the way we stop to talk with Namibian hunters and government officials, American activists, and someone who's been here before - Kenya’s former Director of Wildlife, Richard Leakey.   All the while, we try to uncover what conservation really means in the 21st century.

Reported & produced by Simon Adler with production help from Matthew Kielty.

Special thanks to Chris Weaver, Ian Wallace, Mark Barrow, the Lindstrom family, and everyone at the Aru Game Lodge in Namibia.

Thanks also to Sarah Fogel, Ray Crow, Barbara Clucus, and Diogo Veríssimo.

Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate  

May 27, 2021
The Dirty Drug and the Ice Cream Tub
46:23

This episode, a tale of a wonder drug that will make you wonder about way more than just drugs.  

Doctor-reporter Avir Mitra follows the epic and fantastical journey of a molecule dug out of a distant patch of dirt that would go on to make billions of dollars, prolong millions of lives, and teach us something fundamental we didn’t know about ourselves. Along the way, he meets a geriatric mouse named Ike, an immigrant dad who’s a little bit cool sometimes, a prophetic dream that prompts a thousand-mile journey, an ice cream container that may or may not be an accessory to international drug smuggling, and - most important of all - an obscure protein that’s calling the shots in every one of your cells RIGHT NOW.

This episode was reported by Avir Mitra and was produced by Sarah Qari, Pat Walters, Suzie Lechtenberg, with help from Carin Leong and Rachael Cusick.

Special thanks to Richard Miller, Stuart Schreiber, Joanne Van Tilburg, and Bethany Halford.

Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate 

**This episode was taped prior to the news that David Sabatini was fired from The Howard Hughes Medical Institute and prior to his resignation from the Whitehead Institute. More information about Sabatini’s alleged misconduct and the investigation into his behavior can be found here.

May 21, 2021
Brown Box
28:34

You order some stuff on the Internet and it shows up three hours later. How could all the things that need to happen to make that happen happen so fast?

 

It used to be, when you ordered something on the Internet, you waited a week for it to show up. That was the deal: you didn’t have to get off the couch, but you had to wait. But in the last few years, that’s changed. Now, increasingly, the stuff we buy on the Internet shows up the next day or the same day, sometimes within hours. Free shipping included. Which got us wondering: How is this Internet voodoo possible?

A fleet of robots? Vacuum tubes? Teleportation? Hardly. In this short, reporter Gabriel Mac travels into the belly of the beast that is the Internet retail system, and what he finds takes his breath away and makes him weak in the knees (in the worst way). Producer Pat Walters and Brad Stone, author of The Everything Store, a book about Amazon.com, assist.

*****This podcast contains some language and subject matter that might not be appropriate for young listeners******

 

May 13, 2021
Kleptotherms
44:06

In this episode, we break the thermometer watch the mercury spill out as we discover temperature is far stranger than it seems. Five stories that run the gamut from snakes to stars. We start out underwater, with a snake that has evolved a devious trick for keeping warm. Then we hear the tale of a young man whose seemingly simple method of warming up might be the very thing making him cold. And Senior Correspondent Molly Webster blows the lid off the idea that 98.6 degrees Farenheight is a sound marker of health. 

This episode was reported by Lulu Miller and Molly Webster and was produced by Lulu Miller, Molly Webster, and Becca Bressler.

Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.

May 05, 2021
Deep Cuts
24:10

Today, Lulu and Latif talk about some of their favorite episodes from Radiolab’s past that hold new power today.  

Lulu points to an episode from 2008: 

Imagine that you're a composer. Imagine getting the commission to write a song that will allow family members to face the death of a loved one. Well, composer David Lang had to do just that when a hospital in Garches, France, asked him to write music for their morgue, or 'Salle Des Departs.' What do you do? This piece was produced by Jocelyn Gonzales.

And Latif talks about an episode Jad made in 2009. Here’s how we described it back then:

Jad--a brand new father--wonders what's going on inside the head of his baby Amil.

(And don't worry, you don't need kids to enjoy this podcast.) The questions here are big: what is it like to be so brand new to the world? None of us have memories from this time, so how could we possibly ever know? Is it just chaos? Or, is there something more, some understanding from the very beginning? Jad found a development psychologist named Charles Fernyhough to explore some of his questions.

Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.    

Apr 22, 2021
The Septendecennial Sing-Along
19:36

Every 17 years, a deafening sex orchestra hits the East Coast -- billions and billions of cicadas crawl out of the ground, sing their hearts out, then mate and die. In this short, Jad and Robert talk to a man who gets inside that noise to dissect its meaning and musical components.

While most of us hear a wall of white noise, squeaks, and squawks....David Rothenberg hears a symphony. He's trained his ear to listen for the music of animals, and he's always looking for chances to join in, with everything from lonely birds to giant whales to swarming cicadas.

In this podcast, David explains his urge to connect and sing along, and helps break down the mysterious life cycle and mating rituals of the periodical cicadas into something we can all relate to.

Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.    

 

David Rothenberg making music with the cicadas. Courtesy of David Rothenberg/Bug Music

A visual breakdown of the cicada mating calls:

Courtesy of John Cooley and David Marshall at UConn. For more on cicada mating calls, take a look at this paper from Cooley and Marshall.

A close-up of cicadas getting down:

Courtesy of David Rothenberg/Bug Music

Enjoy a free download of our favorite track from David's CD Bug Music -- here's the description from the liner notes:

Katydid Prehistory: Named in honor of Archaboilus musicus, the 165 million year old prehistoric katydid, whose fossil remains reveal an ability to sing distinct pitches.

Katydid Prehistory

Apr 15, 2021
What Up Holmes?
48:14

Love it or hate it, the freedom to say obnoxious and subversive things is the quintessence of what makes America America. But our say-almost-anything approach to free speech is actually relatively recent, and you can trace it back to one guy: a Supreme Court justice named Oliver Wendell Holmes. Even weirder, you can trace it back to one seemingly ordinary 8-month period in Holmes’s life when he seems to have done a logical U-turn on what should be say-able.  Why he changed his mind during those 8 months is one of the greatest mysteries in the history of the Supreme Court.  (Spoiler: the answer involves anarchists, a house of truth, and a cry for help from a dear friend.)  Join us as we investigate why he changed his mind, how that made the country change its mind, and whether it’s now time to change our minds again.

This episode was reported by Latif Nasser and was produced by Sarah Qari.

Special thanks to Jenny Lawton, Soren Shade, Kelsey Padgett, Mahyad Tousi and Soroush Vosughi.

Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.   

 

further reading:

Thomas Healy’s book The Great Dissent: How Oliver Wendell Holmes CHanged His Mind - And Changed the History of Free Speech In America (the inspiration for this episode) plus his latest book Soul City: Race, Equality and the Lost Dream of an American Utopia.

The Science article that Sinan Aral wrote in 2018, along with Soroush Vosughi and Deb Roy: “The Spread of True and False News Online”

Sinan Aral’s recent book The Hype Machine: How Social Media Disrupts Our Elections, Our Economy and our Health - And How We Must Adapt

Zeynep Tufekci’s newsletter “The Insight” plus her book Twitter and Teargas: The Power and Fragility of Networked Protest

Nabiha Syed’s news website The Markup

Trailer for “The Magnificent Yankee,” a 1950 biopic of Oliver Wendell Holmes

Anthony Lewis, Freedom for the Thought that We Hate: A Biography of the First Amendment

Apr 02, 2021
Elements
73:36

Scientists took about 300 years to lay out the Periodic Table into neat rows and columns. In one hour, we’re going to mess it all up.  This episode, we enlist journalists, poets, musicians, and even a physicist to help us tell stories of matter that matters. You’ll never look at that chart the same way again.

Special thanks to Emotive Fruition for organizing poetry performances and to the mighty Sylvan Esso for composing 'Jaime's Song', both inspired by this episode.

Thanks also to Sam Kean, Chris Howk, Brian Fields and to Paul Dresher and Ned Rothenberg for the use of their song "Untold Story:The Edge of Sleep"

Check out Jaime Lowe's book Mental: Lithium, Love and Losing My Mind

Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.   

Mar 25, 2021
Escapescape
32:19

As we hit the one year mark since the first U.S. state (California) issued a stay-at-home order to prevent the spread of COVID-19, we put out a call to see if any of you would take us to your secret escape spot and record audio there.

And you astounded us with what you brought in. 

In this soundrich, kaleidoscopic episode, we journey around the planet and then, quite literally, beyond it. Listen only if you want a boatload of fresh air, fields of wildflowers, stars, birds, frogs, and a riveting tale involving Isaac Newton and a calm beyond any calm you knew could exist.

This episode was produced by Matt Kielty and Lulu Miller, with production support from Jonny Moens and Suzie Lechtenberg. 

Special thanks to:

Lynn Levy, who went on to host the space-a-licious series, The Habitat, and edit (among other things) the powerful and beautiful new podcast Resistance.

Merav Opher, an astronomy professor at BU, who now directs the SHIELD DRIVE Science Center which is studying the data collected by the Voyagers at the edge of the heavens, or--err, the “heliosphere” as the scientists call it.

Edward Dolnick, The Clockwork Universe: Isaac Newton, the Royal Society, and the Birth of the Modern World

Ann Druyan, one of the creators of the 1977 Golden Album traveling on the Voyager probe, has recently released a new series on National Geographic,  “Cosmos: Possible Worlds

A.J. Dungo, who submitted a postcard while surfing, is author of the mesmerizing graphic novel, In Waves, a memoir about surfing and grief.

Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.   

Mar 19, 2021
Dispatch 14: Covid Crystal Ball
27:14

Last summer, at a hospital in England, a man in his 70s being treated for complications with cancer tested positive for covid-19. He had lymphoma, and the disease plus his drugs weakened his immune system, making him particularly susceptible to the virus. He wasn’t too bad off, considering, and was sent home. That was Day 1. This is the story of what the doctors witnessed, over the course of his illness: the evolution of covid-19 inside his body. Before their eyes, they get a hint of what might be to come in the pandemic. 

This episode was reported by Molly Webster. 

Special thanks to Ravindra Gupta, Jonathan Li.

Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.   

 

Want to learn more about some of the covid case studies? Here are a couple papers to get you started:

The “U.K. Paper”, co-authored by Ravi Gupta, one of our sources for the episode:

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-021-03291-y

A case study out of Boston, co-authored by Dr. Jonathan Li, one of our sources for the episode:

https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMc2031364

For more on immune suppression and covid-19, check out this amazing Scientific American article: 

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/covid-variants-may-arise-in-people-with-compromised-immune-systems/

Mar 12, 2021
The Ceremony
47:13

In November of 2016, journalist Morgen Peck showed up at her friend Molly Webster's apartment in Brooklyn, told her to take her battery out of her phone, and began to tell her about The Ceremony, a moment last fall when a group of, well, let's just call them wizards, came together in an undisclosed location to launch a new currency. It's an undertaking that involves some of the most elaborate security and cryptography ever done (so we've been told). And math. Lots of math. It was all going great until, in the middle of it, something started to behave a little...strangely.

Reported by Molly Webster. Produced by Matt Kielty and Molly Webster. Denver Ceremony station recordings were created by media maker Nathaniel Kramer, with help from Daniel Cooper. 

Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.

Feb 25, 2021
Red Herring
35:18

It was the early 80s, the height of the Cold War, when something strange began happening off the coast of Sweden. The navy reported a mysterious sound deep below the surface of the ocean. Again, and again, and again they would hear it near their secret military bases, in their harbors, and up and down the Swedish coastline. 

After thorough analysis the navy was certain. The sound was an invasion into their waters, an act of war, the opening salvos of a possible nuclear annihilation. 

Or was it? 

Today, Annie McEwen pulls us down into a deep-sea mystery, one of international intrigue that asks you to consider the possibility that maybe, just maybe, your deepest beliefs could be as solid as...air.

This episode was reported by Annie McEwen and produced by Annie McEwen, Matt Kielty, and Sarah Qari, with sound design by Jeremy Bloom. 

Special thanks to Bosse Lindquist.

Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.   

Feb 19, 2021
Facebook's Supreme Court
44:08

Since its inception, the perennial thorn in Facebook’s side has been content moderation. That is, deciding what you and I are allowed to post on the site and what we’re not. Missteps by Facebook in this area have fueled everything from a genocide in Myanmar to viral disinformation surrounding politics and the coronavirus. However, just this past year, conceding their failings, Facebook shifted its approach. They erected an independent body of twenty jurors that will make the final call on many of Facebook’s thorniest decisions. This body has been called: Facebook’s Supreme Court.

So today, in collaboration with the New Yorker magazine and the New Yorker Radio Hour, we explore how this body came to be, what power it really has and how the consequences of its decisions will be nothing short of life or death.

This episode was reported and produced by Simon Adler.

To hear more about the court's origin, their rulings so far, and their upcoming docket, check out David Remnick and reporter Kate Klonick’s conversation in the New Yorker Radio Hour podcast feed.

Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.    

 

Feb 12, 2021
Smile My Ass
34:56

Candid Camera is one of the most original – and one of the most mischievous – TV shows of all time.  Admirers hailed its creator Allen Funt as a poet of the everyday. Critics denounced him as a Peeping Tom.  Funt sought to capture people at their most unguarded, their most spontaneous, their most natural.  And he did. But as the show succeeded, it started to change the way we thought not only of reality television, but also of reality itself.  Looking back at the show now, a half century later, it’s hard NOT to see so many of our preoccupations – privacy, propriety, publicity, authenticity – through a funhouse mirror, darkly.

This episode was reported by Latif Nasser and produced by Matt Kielty. 

Special Thanks to: Bertram van Munster, Fred Nadis, Alexa Conway, the Eastern Airlines Employee Association and Eastern Airlines Radio, Rebecca Lemov, Anna McCarthy, Jill Lepore, Cullie Bogacki Willis III, Barbara Titus and the Funt family. 

Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.    

Jan 29, 2021
Post Reports: Four Hours of Insurrection
39:20

We’re all still processing what happened on January 6th. Despite the hours and hours of video circulating online, we still didn’t feel like we had a visceral, on-the-ground sense of what happened that day. Until we heard the piece we’re featuring today. The Washington Post’s daily podcast Post Reports built a minute-by-minute replay of that day, from the rally, to the invasion, to the aftermath, told through the voices of people who were in the building that day -- reporters, photojournalists, Congresspeople, police officers and more. It’s some of the most visceral reporting we’ve heard anywhere on this historic moment. Listen to their full episode here.

 

Jan 16, 2021
More Money Less Problems
28:13

Back in March 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic was just beginning and the shelter-in-place orders brought the economy to a screeching halt, a quirky-but-clever idea to save the economy made its way up to some of the highest levels of government. Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib proposed an ambitious relief bill to keep the country’s metaphorical lights on: recurring payments to people to help them stay afloat during the crisis. And the way Congress would pay for it? By minting two platinum $1 trillion coins. (You read that right). 

In this episode, we take a jaunt through the evolution of our currency, from the gold-backed bills of the 19th century, to the most powerful computer at the Federal Reserve. And we chase an idea that torpedoes what we thought was a fundamental law of economics. Can we actually just print more money? 

This episode was reported by Becca Bressler and was produced by Becca Bressler and Simon Adler.

Special thanks to Carlos Mucha, Warren Mosler, David Cay Johnston, Alex Goldmark, Bryant Urstadt, and Amanda Aronczyk. 

To learn more about these ideas check out: 

Stephanie Kelton's book The Deficit Myth

Jacob Goldstein's book Money: The True Story of a Made-Up Thing and the Planet Money podcast

Betsey Stevenson's podcast Think Like an Economist 

This website for more about #MintTheCoin

And for a fun quick read, check out this WIRED article about the surprising origin of the trillion dollar coin.

 

Jan 15, 2021
Sight Unseen
36:54

As the attacks were unfolding on the Capitol, a steady stream of images poured onto our screens. Photo editor Kainaz Amaria tells us what she was looking for--and seeing--that afternoon. And she runs into a dilemma we've talked about before. In December of 2009, photojournalist Lynsey Addario, in was embedded with a medevac team in Afghanistan. After days of waiting, one night they got the call - a marine was gravely wounded. What happened next happens all the time. But this time it was captured, picture by picture, in excruciating detail. Horrible, difficult, and at times strikingly beautiful, those photos raise some questions: Who should see them, who gets to decide who should see them, and what can pictures like that do, to those of us far away from the horrors of war and those of us who are all too close to it?

Episode Notes:

To hear Kainaz Amaria talk more about the filter, check out: 

this post on ethical questions to consider around the sharing of images of police brutality and her interview on On The Media about the double-standard in many U.S. newsrooms when it comes to posting graphic images. 

Special thanks to Chris Hughes and Helium Records for the use of Shift Part IV from the album Shift

Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.    

Jan 13, 2021
A Note from Radiolab

In the past few weeks, there have been a lot of conversations about the tolerance of harassment and bad behavior in our industry and in particular of a person who worked on our show five years ago, Andy Mills.

The Radiolab team wants to say to the people who were hurt, to anyone who has ever felt unwelcome at our show, and to the industry we helped shape: we are listening. We hate that this happened and we apologize to those we failed. At the time, show leadership initiated a response from WNYC to address Andy’s behavior, but it didn’t happen fast enough and it didn’t do enough.

We can’t change the past, but we can promise you that we are all holding this show, and each other, accountable for making sure that no person has to experience anything like that again.

We believe the best journalism demands an open, inclusive process and the widest possible range of perspectives and experiences. As individuals, we promise to put our full hearts to finding and nurturing stories that embrace that range of perspectives and experiences. Listeners: We hope that you’ll hear this commitment in our work ahead, and that you will let us know if you do not.

And to our fellow journalists: We love making this show, and we love the community of radio and podcast producers who make it possible for us to exist. Nineteen people work here right now. But over the past 19 years, hundreds of you have contributed stories, ideas, questions, criticism, notes or your ears as listeners. We are grateful to you. 

 

Team Radiolab:

Jad Abumrad, Simon Adler, Jeremy Bloom, Becca Bressler, Rachael Cusick, David Gebel, Dylan Keefe, Matt Kielty, Suzie Lechtenberg, Tobin Low, Annie McEwen, Lulu Miller, Latif Nasser, Sarah Qari, Sarah Sandbach, Arianne Wack, Pat Walters, Molly Webster, Soren Wheeler 

Jan 07, 2021
A Terrible Covid Christmas Special
49:36

This year was the worst. And as our staff tried to figure out what to do for our last episode of 2020, co-host Latif Nasser thought, what if we stare straight into the darkness … and make a damn Christmas special about it.

Latif begins with a story about Santa, and a back-room deal he made with the Trump administration to jump to the front of the vaccine line, a tale that travels from an absurd quid-pro-quo to a deep question: who really is an essential worker? 

From there, we take a whistle-stop tour through the numbers that scientists say you need to know as you wind your way (or preferably, don’t wind your way) through our COVID-infested world. Producer Sarah Qari brings us her version of the Christmas classic nobody ever dreamt they’d want to hear: The Twelve Numbers of COVID.

You can check out Martin Bazant’s COVID “calculator” here.

This episode was reported by Latif Nasser and Sarah Qari, and was produced by Matt Kielty, Sarah Qari, and Pat Walters.

Special thanks to Anna Weggel and Brant Miller, Catherine, Rohan, and Finn Munro, Noam Osband, Amber D’Souza, Chris Zangmeister, John Volckens, Joshua Santarpia, Laurel Bristow, Michael Mina,  Mohammad Sajadi, James V. Grimaldi, Stephanie Armour, Joshuah Bearman, Brendan Nyhan

And for more on the proposed Santa vaccine deal, see Julie Wernau and her colleagues' reporting at the Wall Street Journal here.

Original art for this episode by Zara Stasi. Check out her work at:  www.goodforthebees.com

Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.    

Dec 23, 2020
The Ashes on the Lawn
51:59

A global pandemic. An afflicted, angry group. A seemingly indifferent government. Reporter Tracie Hunte wanted to understand this moment of pain and confusion by looking back 30 years, and she found a complicated answer to a simple question: When nothing seems to work, how do you make change?

This episode was reported by Tracie Hunte, and produced by Annie McEwen and Tobin Low. Fact-checking by Diane Kelly. 

Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.    

Dec 18, 2020
Enemy of Mankind
56:33

Should the U.S. Supreme Court be the court of the world? In the 18th century, two feuding Frenchmen inspired a one-sentence law that helped launch American human rights litigation into the 20th century. The Alien Tort Statute allowed a Paraguayan woman to find justice for a terrible crime committed in her homeland. But as America reached further and further out into the world, the court was forced to confront the contradictions in our country’s ideology: sympathy vs. sovereignty. Earlier this month, the Supreme Court heard arguments in Jesner v. Arab Bank, a case that could reshape the way America responds to human rights abuses abroad. Does the A.T.S. secure human rights or is it a dangerous overreach?

Additional music for this episode by Nicolas Carter.

Special thanks to William J. Aceves, William Baude, Diego Calles, Alana Casanova-Burgess, William Dodge, Susan Farbstein, Jeffery Fisher, Joanne Freeman, Julian Ku, Nicholas Rosenkranz, Susan Simpson, Emily Vinson, Benjamin Wittes and Jamison York. Ken Saro-Wiwa Jr., who appears in this episode, passed away in October 2016.

Supreme Court archival audio comes from Oyez®, a free law project in collaboration with the Legal Information Institute at Cornell.

Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.    

Dec 10, 2020
The Great Vaccinator
41:59

Until now, the fastest vaccine ever made - for mumps - took four years. And while our current effort to develop a covid-19 vaccine involves thousands of people working around the clock, the mumps vaccine was developed almost exclusively by one person: Maurice Hilleman. Hilleman cranked out more than 40 other vaccines over the course of his career, including 8 of the 14 routinely given to children. He arguably saved more lives than any other single person. And through his work, Hilleman embodied the instincts, drive, and guts it takes to marshall the human body’s defenses against a disease. But through him we also see the struggle and the costs of these monumental scientific efforts.

This episode was reported by Matt Kielty and Heather Radke, and produced by Matt Kielty.

Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.    

Dec 03, 2020
Dispatch 13: Challenge Trials
26:32

What if someone asked you to get infected with the COVID-19 virus, deliberately, in order to speed up the development of a vaccine? Would you do it? Would you risk your life to save others?

For months, dozens of companies have been racing to create coronavirus vaccines. Finally, three have done it. But according to the experts, we’re not out of the woods yet; we’ll need several vaccines to satisfy the global demand. One way to speed up the development process is a controversial technique called a human challenge trial, in which human subjects are intentionally infected with the virus. Senior correspondent Molly Webster gets the lowdown from Public News Service reporter Laura Rosbrow-Telem and then tracks down some of the tens of thousands of people who have volunteered to participate in a challenge trial.

Special thanks to Jonathan Miller.

This episode was reported by Molly Webster and Laura Rosbrow-Telem and produced by Molly Webster and Pat Walters.

Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.    

Nov 25, 2020
Deception
57:20

Lies, liars, and lie catchers. This hour of Radiolab asks if it's possible for anyone to lead a life without deception.

We consult a cast of characters, from pathological liars to lying snakes to drunken psychiatrists, to try and understand the strange power of lying to yourself and others.

Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.    

Nov 19, 2020
Breaking Benford
29:35

In the days after the US Presidential election was called for Joe Biden, many supporters of Donald Trump are crying foul.  Voter fraud. And a key piece of evidence? A century-old quirk of math called Benford’s Law.  We at Radiolab know Benford’s Law well, and have covered it before.  In this political dispatch, Latif and Soren Sherlock their way through the precinct numbers to see if these claims hold up. Spoiler: they don’t. But the reason why is more interesting than you’d expect.

This episode was reported by Latif Nasser. 

Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.    

Links: 

Walter Mebane, “Inappropriate Applications of Benford’s Law Regularities to Some Data from the 2020 Presidential Election in the United States”

Nov 13, 2020
Bloc Party
50:37

In the 1996 election, Bill Clinton had a problem. The women who came out in droves for him in ‘92, split their vote in the ‘94 midterms, handing over control of the House and the Senate to the Republican Party. As his team stared ahead at his re-election bid, they knew they had to win those women back. So, after a major polling effort to determine who exactly their undecided ladies were, Clinton turned his focus toward the most important swing vote in the election: the soccer moms. 

The soccer mom ushered in a new era of political campaigning, an era of slicing and dicing the electorate, engineering the (predominately white) voting bloc characters that campaigns have chased after. Security Moms. Nascar Dads. Joe Six Pack. Walmart Moms. 

But what about everyone else? What about the surprisingly swingable corners of this country without a soccer mom in sight?  Inspired by this exceedingly cool interactive map from Politico, we set out on a mission to make an audio-map of our own. We asked pollsters, reporters and political operatives in swing states: what slice of your population is up for grabs? A slice that no one talks about? In this episode, we crawl inside the places that might hold our country’s future in its hands, all the while asking: are these slices even real? Are there people inside them that might swing this election? 

This episode was reported and produced by Becca Bressler, Tobin Low, Sarah Qari, Tracie Hunte, Pat Walters and Matt Kielty, with help from Jonny Moens.

Special thanks to Darren Samuelsohn, Josh Cochran, Elizabeth Ralph, and the Politico team for the original reporting and map that inspired this episode. 

Also thanks to: Elissa Schneider, Wisam Naoum, Martin Manna, Ashourina Slewo, Eli Newman, Zoe Clark, Erin Roselio, Jess Kamm Broomell, Will Doran, John Zogby, Matt Dickinson, Tom Jensen, Ross Grogg, Joel Andrus, Jonathan Tilove, Steve Contorno, Heaven Hale, Jeff Shapiro, Nicole Cobler, Marie Albiges, Matt Dole, Robin Goist, Katie Paris, Julie Womack, Matt Dole, Jackie Borchardt, Jessica Locklear, Twinkle Patel, Bobby Das, Dharmesh Ahir,  Nimesh Dhinubhai, Jay Desai, Rishi Bagga, and Sanjeev Joshipura.

Christina Greer’s book is Black Ethnics: Race, Immigration, and the Pursuit of the American Dream, and Corey Fields book is Black Elephants in the Room: The Unexpected Politics of African American.

Original art for this episode by Zara Stasi. Check out her work at:  www.goodforthebees.com

Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.    

Nov 02, 2020
How to Win Friends and Influence Baboons
29:19

Baboon troops. We all know they’re hierarchical. There’s the big brutish alpha male who rules with a hairy iron fist, and then there’s everybody else. Which is what Meg Crofoot thought too, before she used GPS collars to track the movements of a troop of baboons for a whole month. What she and her team learned from this data gave them a whole new understanding of baboon troop dynamics, and, moment to moment, who really has the power. 

This episode was reported and produced by Annie McEwen.

Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.    

Oct 31, 2020
What If?
41:23

There’s plenty of speculation about what Donald Trump might do in the wake of the election. Would he dispute the results if he loses? Would he simply refuse to leave office, or even try to use the military to maintain control? Last summer, Rosa Brooks got together a team of experts and political operatives from both sides of the aisle to ask a slightly different question. Rather than arguing about whether he’d do those things, they dug into what exactly would happen if he did. Part war game part choose your own adventure, Rosa’s Transition Integrity Project doesn’t give us any predictions, and it isn’t a referendum on Trump. Instead, it’s a deeply illuminating stress test on our laws, our institutions, and on the commitment to democracy written into the constitution.

This episode was reported by Bethel Habte, with help from Tracie Hunte, and produced by Bethel Habte. Jeremy Bloom provided original music.

Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.    

You can read The Transition Integrity Project’s report here.

Oct 23, 2020
Kittens Kick The Giggly Blue Robot All Summer
39:36

With the recent passing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, there's been a lot of debate about how much power the Supreme Court should really have.

We tend to think of the Supreme Court justices as all-powerful guardians of the constitution, issuing momentous rulings from on high. They seem at once powerful, and unknowable; all lacy collars and black robes.

But they haven’t always been so, you know, supreme. On this episode of More Perfect, we go all the way back to the case that, in a lot of ways, is the beginning of the court we know today.

Also: we listen back to a mnemonic device (and song) that we created back in 2016 to help people remember the names of the justices. Listen, create a new one, and share with us!

The key links:

- Akhil Reed Amar's forthcoming book, The Constitution Today: Timeless Lessons for the Issues of Our Era
- Linda Monk's book, The Words We Live By: Your Annotated Guide to the Constitution

The key voices:

- Linda Monk, author and constitutional scholar
- Akhil Reed Amar, Sterling Professor of Law at Yale
- Ari J. Savitzky, lawyer at WilmerHale

The key cases:

- 1803: Marbury v. Madison
- 1832: Worcester v. Georgia
- 1954: Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (1)
- 1955: Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (2)

Additional music for this episode by Podington Bear.

Special thanks to Dylan Keefe and Mitch Boyer for their work on the above video.

Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.    

 

Oct 08, 2020
No Special Duty
45:14

What are the police for? Producer B.A. Parker started wondering this back in June, as Black Lives Matter protests and calls to “defund the police” ramped up. The question led her to a wild story of a stabbing on a New York City subway train, and the realization that, according to the law, the police don’t always have to protect us. Producer Sarah Qari joins Parker to dig into the legal background, which takes her all the way up to the Supreme Court... and then all the way back down to on-duty officers themselves.

This episode contains strong language and graphic violence.

Reported and produced by B.A. Parker and Sarah Qari, and produced by Matt Kielty and Pat Walters.

Special thanks to April Hayes and Katia Maguire for their documentary Home Truth about Jessica Gonzales, Cracked.com for sending us down this rabbit hole, Caroline Bettinger-López, Geoff Grimwood, Christy Lopez, Anthony Herron, Mike Wells, and Keith Taylor.

Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.    

 

Oct 02, 2020
Insomnia Line
34:30

Coronasomnia is a not-so-surprising side-effect of the global pandemic. More and more of us are having trouble falling asleep. We wanted to find a way to get inside that nighttime world, to see why people are awake and what they are thinking about.

So what’d Radiolab decide to do? 

Open up the phone lines and talk to you.

We created an insomnia hotline and on this week’s experimental episode, we stayed up all night, taking hundreds of calls, spilling secrets, and at long last, watching the sunrise peek through.  

This episode was produced by Lulu Miller with Rachael Cusick, Tracie Hunte, Tobin Low, Sarah Qari, Molly Webster, Pat Walters, Shima Oliaee, and Jonny Moens.

Want more Radiolab in your life? Sign up for our newsletter! We share our latest favorites: articles, tv shows, funny Youtube videos, chocolate chip cookie recipes, and more.

Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.    

 

Sep 25, 2020
More Perfect: Sex Appeal
53:17

We lost a legend. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died on September 18th, 2020. She was 87. In honor of her passing we are re-airing the More Perfect episode dedicated to one of her cases, because it offers a unique portrait of how one person can make change in the world. 

 This is the story of how Ginsburg, as a young lawyer at the ACLU, convinced an all-male Supreme Court to take discrimination against women seriously - using a case on discrimination against men. 

This episode was reported by Julia Longoria.

Special thanks to Stephen Wiesenfeld, Alison Keith, and Bob Darcy.

Supreme Court archival audio comes from Oyez®, a free law project in collaboration with the Legal Information Institute at Cornell.

Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate

Sep 19, 2020
Falling
56:27

There are so many ways to fall—in love, asleep, even flat on your face. This hour, Radiolab dives into stories of great falls. 

We jump into a black hole, take a trip over Niagara Falls, upend some myths about falling cats, and plunge into our favorite songs about falling.

Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.    

Sep 17, 2020
Bringing Gamma Back, Again
36:47
Today, we return to the lab of neuroscientist Li-Huei Tsai, which brought us one of our favorite stories from four years ago - about the power of flashing lights on an Alzheimer’s-addled (mouse) brain. In this update, Li-Huei tells us about her team’s latest research, which now includes flashing sound, and ways in which light and sound together might retrieve lost memories. This new science is not a cure, and is far from a treatment, but it’s a finding so … simple, you won’t be able to shake it. Come join us for a lab visit, where we’ll meet some mice, stare at some light, and come face-to-face with the mystery of memory. We can promise you: by the end, you’ll never think the same way about Christmas lights again. Or jingle bells.

This update was reported by Molly Webster, and produced by Rachael Cusick. The original episode was produced by Annie McEwen, Matt Kielty, and Molly Webster, with help from Simon Adler. 

Special thanks to Ed Boyden, Cognito Therapeutics, Brad Dickerson, Karen Duff, Zaven Khachaturian, Michael Lutz, Kevin M. Spencer, and Peter Uhlhaas.

Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.    

Molly's note about the image:

Those neon green things in the image are microglia, the brain’s immune cells, or, as we describe them in our episode, the janitor cells of the brain. Straight from MIT’s research files, this image shows microglia who have gotten light stimulation therapy (one can only hope in the flicker room). You can see their many, super-long tentacles, which would be used to feel out anything that didn’t belong in the brain. And then they’d eat it!

Further reading: 

Li-Huei and co’s gamma sound and light paperMulti-sensory Gamma Stimulation Ameliorates Alzheimer’s-Associated Pathology and Improves Cognition

 

Sep 11, 2020
Fungus Amungus
31:48

Six years ago, a new infection began popping up in four different hospitals on three different continents, all around the same time. It wasn’t a bacteria, or a virus. It was ... a killer fungus. No one knew where it came from, or why. Today, the story of an ancient showdown between fungus and mammals that started when dinosaurs disappeared from the earth. Back then, the battle swung in our favor (spoiler alert!) and we’ve been hanging onto that win ever since. But one scientist suggests that the rise of this new infectious fungus indicates our edge is slipping, degree by increasing degree.

This episode was reported by Molly Webster, and produced by Molly and Bethel Habte, with production help from Tad Davis. Special thanks to Julie Parsonnet and Aviv Bergman. 

If you caught this segment in our radio broadcast and want to hear the segment it aired with, check out Covid Crystal Ball here.

Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.  

Further Fungus Reading:

NYTimes feature on the mysterious rise of Candida auris. 

 Arturo's paper: “On the emergence of Candida auris, Climate Change, Azoles, Swamps, and Birds”, by Arturo Casadevall, et al.

“On the Origins of a Species: What Might Explain the Rise of Candida auris?”, a report from the CDC.

 

Sep 04, 2020
Translation
65:09

How close can words get you to the truth and feel and force of life? That's the question poking at our ribs this hour, as we wonder how it is that the right words can have the wrong meanings, and why sometimes the best translations lead us to an understanding that's way deeper than language. This episode, a bunch of stories that play out in the middle space between one reality and another — where poetry, insult comedy, 911 calls, and even our own bodies work to close the gap.

Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.  

Special thanks for the music of Brian Carpenter's Ghost Train Orchestra

Aug 27, 2020
Lebanon, USA
42:21

This is a story of a road trip. After a particularly traumatic Valentine's Day, Fadi Boukaram was surfing google maps and noticed that there was a town called Lebanon... in Oregon. Being Lebanese himself, he wondered, how many Lebanons exist in the US? The answer: 47. Thus began his journey to visit them all and find an America he'd never expected, and the homeland he'd been searching for all along.

This episode was made in collaboration with Kerning Cultures, a podcast that tells stories from the Middle East and North Africa.  The original "Lebanon USA" story was reported by Alex Atack with editorial support from Bella Ibrahim, Dana Ballout, Zeina Dowidar, and Hebah Fisher. Original sound design by Alex Atack. 

The new update of the story was produced and reported by Shima Oliaee. 

We had original music by Thomas Koner and Jad Atoui.

Be sure to check out Kerning Cultures at their website www.kerningcultures.com, instagram @kerningcultures, or twitter @kerningcultures. You can read more about Fadi’s trips and see his photographs at lebanonusa.com or on his Instagram at @lebanonusa.

Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate. 

Editor's Note: In an earlier version of this episode, we inaccurately described a grain elevator. We have updated the audio to reflect the correction.

---

If you would like to donate to Beirut at this time, we have links here (from NYT):

The Lebanese Red Cross dispatches every ambulance from North Lebanon, Bekaa, and South Lebanon to Beirut to treat the wounded and help in search-and-rescue operations. You can make a contribution here

The United Nations’ World Food Program provides food to people displaced or made homeless after the blast. Lebanon imports nearly 85% of its food, and the port of Beirut, the epicenter of the explosion, played a central role in that supply chain. With the port now severely damaged, food prices are likely to be beyond the reach of many. You can donate here.

The NGO Humanity and Inclusion has 100 workers in Lebanon, including physical therapists, psychologists and social workers. They are focusing on post-surgical therapy in Beirut following the explosion. You can make a contribution here.

International Medical Corps is deploying medical units and will provide mental health care to those affected in Lebanon. The humanitarian aid organization also provides health services to Syrian refugees in Lebanon, and vulnerable Lebanese. You can donate here.

Islamic Relief, which specializes in food aid and emergency response, is helping to put a supply chain in place for emergency aid in Beirut. You can donate here.

Save the Children have launched a Lebanon’s children relief fund, to which you can donate here.

UNICEF, the United Nations agency specializing in aid to children, is providing medical and vaccine supplies in Beirut, and supplying drinking water to rescue workers at the Beirut port. Its on-the-ground team is also counseling children traumatized by the blast. You can donate here.

Impact Lebanon, a nonprofit organization, has set up a crowdfunding campaign to help organizations on the ground, and is helping to share information about people still missing after the explosion. The group had raised over $3 million as of Wednesday and donated the first $100,000 to the Lebanese Red Cross.

The health care organization Project HOPE is bringing medical supplies and protective gear to Beirut and assisting the authorities on the ground. A donation page is available here.

Over 300,000 people in Beirut were displaced from their homes by the explosion. Baytna Baytak, a charity that provided free housing to health care workers during the coronavirus pandemic, is now raising funds with Impact Lebanon to shelter those who have been displaced.

For those in Beirut, here is a list of urgent blood needs. Several social media accounts have also been set up to help locate victims.

 

Aug 21, 2020
The Wubi Effect
55:02

When we think of China today, we think of a technological superpower. From Huawei and 5G to TikTok and viral social media, China is stride for stride with the United States in the world of computing. However, China’s technological renaissance almost didn’t happen. And for one very basic reason: The Chinese language, with its 70,000 plus characters, couldn’t fit on a keyboard. 

Today, we tell the story of Professor Wang Yongmin, a hard headed computer programmer who solved this puzzle and laid the foundation for the China we know today.

This episode was reported and produced by Simon Adler with reporting assistance from Yang Yang.

Special thanks to Martin Howard. You can view his renowned collection of typewriters at: antiquetypewriters.com

Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate. 

Aug 14, 2020
Uncounted
50:35

First things first: our very own Latif Nasser has an exciting new show on Netflix. He talks to Jad about the hidden forces of the world that connect us all.

Then, with an eye on the upcoming election, we take a look back: at two pieces from More Perfect Season 3 about Constitutional amendments that determine who gets to vote.

Former Radiolab producer Julia Longoria takes us to Washington, D.C. The capital is at the heart of our democracy, but it’s not a state, and it wasn’t until the 23rd Amendment that its people got the right to vote for president. But that still left DC without full representation in Congress; D.C. sends a "non-voting delegate" to the House. Julia profiles that delegate, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, and her unique approach to fighting for power in a virtually powerless role.

Second, Radiolab producer Sarah Qari looks at a current fight to lower the US voting age to 16 that harkens back to the fight for the 26th Amendment in the 1960s. Eighteen-year-olds at the time argued that if they were old enough to be drafted to fight in the War, they were old enough to have a voice in our democracy. But what about today, when even younger Americans are finding themselves at the center of national political debates? Does it mean we should lower the voting age even further?

Music in this episode by Carling & Will

This episode was reported and produced by Julia Longoria and Sarah Qari.

Check out Latif Nasser’s new Netflix show Connected here.

Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate. 

Aug 07, 2020
Invisible Allies
41:59

As scientists have been scrambling to find new and better ways to treat covid-19, they’ve come across some unexpected allies. Invisible and primordial, these protectors have been with us all along. And they just might help us to better weather this viral storm.

To kick things off, we travel through time from a homeless shelter to a military hospital, pondering the pandemic-fighting power of the sun. And then, we dive deep into the periodic table to look at how a simple element might actually be a microbe’s biggest foe.

This episode was reported by Simon Adler and Molly Webster, and produced by Annie McEwen, Pat Walters, Simon Adler, and Molly Webster, with production help from Tad Davis.

Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate. 

Jul 31, 2020
Baby Blue Blood Drive
66:45

Horseshoe crabs are not much to look at.  But beneath their unassuming catcher’s-mitt shell, they harbor a half-billion-year-old secret: a superpower that helped them outlive the dinosaurs and survive all the Earth’s mass extinctions.  And what is that secret superpower? Their blood. Their baby blue blood.  And it’s so miraculous that for decades, it hasn’t just been saving their butts, it’s been saving ours too.

But that all might be about to change.  

Follow us as we follow these ancient critters - from a raunchy beach orgy to a marine blood drive to the most secluded waterslide - and learn a thing or two from them about how much we depend on nature and how much it depends on us.

 

BONUS: If you want to know more about how miraculous horseshoe crabs are, here's a bunch of our favorite reads:

Alexis Madrigal, "The Blood Harvest" in The Atlantic, and Sarah Zhang's recent follow up in The Atlantic, "The Last Days of the Blue Blood Harvest" 

Deborah Cramer, The Narrow Edge

Deborah Cramer, "Inside the Biomedical Revolution to Save Horseshoe Crabs" in Audubon Magazine 

Richard Fortey, Horseshoe Crabs and Velvet Worms

Ian Frazier, "Blue Bloods"  in The New Yorker 

Lulu Miller's short story, "Me and Jane"  in Catapult Magazine

Jerry Gault, "The Most Noble Fishing There Is"  in Charles River's Eureka Magazine

or check out Glenn Gauvry's horseshoe crab research database

 

This episode was reported by Latif Nasser with help from Damiano Marchetti and Lulu Miller, and was produced by Annie McEwen and Matt Kielty with help from Liza Yeager.

Special thanks to Arlene Shaner at the NY Academy of Medicine, Tim Wisniewski at the Alan Mason Chesney Medical Archives at Johns Hopkins University, Jennifer Walton at the library of the Marine Biological Lab of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and Glenn Gauvry at the Ecological Research and Development Group.

Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate. 

Jul 24, 2020
Dispatches from 1918
70:31

It’s hard to imagine what the world will look like when COVID-19 has passed. So in this episode, we look back to the years after 1918, at the political, artistic, and viral aftermath of the flu pandemic that killed between 50 and 100 million people and left our world permanently transformed.

This episode was reported and produced by Rachael Cusick, Tad Davis, Tracie Hunte, Matt Kielty, Latif Nasser, Sarah Qari, Pat Walters, Molly Webster, with production assistance from Tad Davis and Bethel Habte.

Special thanks to the Radio Diaries podcast for letting us use an excerpt of their interview with Harry Mills. You can find the original episode here. For more on Egon Schiele’s life, check out the Leopold Museum’s biography, by Verena Gamper.

Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate 

Jul 17, 2020
The Flag and the Fury
73:24

How do you actually make change in the world? For 126 years, Mississippi has had the Confederate battle flag on their state flag, and they were the last state in the nation where that emblem remained “officially” flying.  A few days ago, that flag came down. A few days before that, it coming down would have seemed impossible. Shima Oliaee dives into the story behind this de-flagging: a journey involving a clash of histories, designs, families, and even cheerleading. 

This episode was reported and produced by Shima Oliaee.

To read or listen to Kiese Laymon's memoir Heavyhttps://www.simonandschuster.com/books/Heavy/Kiese-Laymon/9781501125669.

Jul 12, 2020
The Third. A TED Talk.
18:06

Jad gives a TED talk about his life as a journalist and how Radiolab has evolved over the years.

Here's how TED described it:

How do you end a story? Host of Radiolab Jad Abumrad tells how his search for an answer led him home to the mountains of Tennessee, where he met an unexpected teacher: Dolly Parton.

Jad Nicholas Abumrad is a Lebanese-American radio host, composer and producer. He is the founder of the syndicated public radio program 
Radiolab, which is broadcast on over 600 radio stations nationwide and is downloaded more than 120 million times a year as a podcast. He also created More Perfecta podcast that tells the stories behind the Supreme Court's most famous decisions. And most recently, Dolly Parton's America, a nine-episode podcast exploring the life and times of the iconic country music star. Abumrad has received three Peabody Awards and was named a MacArthur Fellow in 2011.

Jun 25, 2020
Post No Evil Redux
70:58

Today we revisit our story on Facebook and its rulebook, looking at what’s changed in the past two years and exploring how these rules will impact the 2020 Presidential Election. 

Back in 2008 Facebook began writing a document. It was a constitution of sorts, laying out what could and what couldn’t be posted on the site. Back then, the rules were simple, outlawing nudity and gore. Today, they’re anything but. 

How do you define hate speech? Where’s the line between a joke and an attack? How much butt is too much butt? Facebook has answered these questions. And from these answers they’ve written a rulebook that all 2.2 billion of us are expected to follow. Today, we explore that rulebook. We dive into its details and untangle its logic. All the while wondering what does this mean for the future of free speech?

This episode was reported by Simon Adler with help from Tracie Hunte and was produced by Simon Adler with help from Bethel Habte.

Special thanks to Sarah Roberts, Jeffrey Rosen, Carolyn Glanville, Ruchika Budhraja, Brian Dogan, Ellen Silver, James Mitchell, Guy Rosen, Mike Masnick, and our voice actor Michael Chernus.

Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate. 

Jun 19, 2020
The Liberation of RNA
27:04

In June of 2019, Brandon Ogbunu got on stage and told a story for The Story Collider, a podcast and live storytelling show. Starting when he was a senior in college being shook down by a couple cops, Brandon tells us about navigating his ups and downs of a career in science, his startling connection to scientific racism, and his battle against biology's central dogma. 

Brandon’s story was recorded by The Story Collider as part of the 2019 Evolution Meeting in Providence, Rhode Island. You can find the full episode and learn more about The Story Collider here.

Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate 

Jun 13, 2020
Graham
59:40

If former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin’s case for the death of George Floyd goes to trial, there will be this one, controversial legal principle looming over the proceedings: The reasonable officer.

In this episode, we explore the origin of the reasonable officer standard, with the case that sent two Charlotte lawyers on a quest for true objectivity, and changed the face of policing in the US.

This episode was produced by Matt Kielty with help from Kelly Prime and Annie McEwen.

Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate 

Jun 07, 2020
Nina

Producer Tracie Hunte stumbled into a duet between Nina Simone and the sounds of protest outside her apartment. Then she discovered a performance by Nina on April 7, 1968 - three days after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Tracie talks about what Nina’s music, born during another time when our country was facing questions that seemed to have no answer, meant then and why it still resonates today.

 Listen to Nina's brother, Samuel Waymon, talk about that April 7th concert here.

Jun 06, 2020
Dispatch 6: Strange Times
33:31

Covid has disrupted the most basic routines of our days and nights. But in the middle of a conversation about how to fight the virus, we find a place impervious to the stalled plans and frenetic demands of the outside world. It’s a very different kind of front line, where urgent work means moving slow, and time is marked out in tiny pre-planned steps. Then, on a walk through the woods, we consider how the tempo of our lives affects our minds and discover how the beats of biology shape our bodies.

This episode was produced with help from Molly Webster and Tracie Hunte.

Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate 

May 29, 2020
Speedy Beet
24:05

There are few musical moments more well-worn than the first four notes of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. But in this short, we find out that Beethoven might have made a last-ditch effort to keep his music from ever feeling familiar, to keep pushing his listeners to a kind of psychological limit.

Big thanks to the folks at Brooklyn Philharmonic: Conductor Alan Pierson, Deborah Buck and Suzy Perelman on violin, Arash Amini on cello, and Ah Ling Neu on viola.

And check out The First Four Notes, Matthew Guerrieri's book on Beethoven's Fifth.

Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate

May 22, 2020
Octomom
33:00

In 2007, Bruce Robison’s robot submarine stumbled across an octopus settling in to brood her eggs. It seemed like a small moment. But as he went back to visit her, month after month, what began as a simple act of motherhood became a heroic feat that has never been equaled by any known species on Earth. 

This episode was reported and produced by Annie McEwen. 

Special thanks to Kim Fulton-Bennett and Rob Sherlock at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute. And thanks to the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra for the use of their piece, “Concerto for Bassoon & Chamber Orchestra: II. Beautiful.” 

Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate 

If you need more ocean in your life, check out the incredible Monterey Bay Aquarium live cams (especially the jellies!): www.montereybayaquarium.org/animals/live-cams

 Here’s a pic of Octomom sitting on her eggs, Nov. 1, 2007.  

 

May 15, 2020
Why Fish Don't Exist
27:55

Our old friend Lulu Miller — former Radiolab producer, co-creator of Invisibilia — has been obsessed by the chaos that rules the universe since long before it showed up as a global pandemic, and a few weeks ago, she published a book about it. It’s called Why Fish Don’t Exist. It’s part scientific adventure story, part philosophical manifesto, part chest-ripped-open memoir. Jad called her up to talk about how an obscure 19th century ichthyologist with a checkered past helped her find meaning in the world, and what she means when she says fish aren’t real.

You can buy Lulu's book Why Fish Don’t Exist here.

This episode was produced by Pat Walters. 

Special thanks to Pan•American.

Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate 

May 13, 2020
David and Dominique
29:55

David Gebel and Dominique Crisden have a couple of things in common: they both live in New York, they’re both gay, and they’re both HIV-positive. But David is in his 60s, and has been living with the disease since moving to New York in the ‘80s. Dominique, on the other hand, is only in his early 30s. From our friends at WNYC's “Nancy”, this episode features a very special conversation between David and Dominique about the similarities and differences in their experiences living with HIV.

Special thanks to Krishna Stone at Gay Men's Health Crisis, an HIV/AIDS prevention, care, and advocacy organization in New York. 

This episode was produced by Tobin Low, Kathy Tu and Matt Collette. Music in this episode by Jeremy Bloom and Alex Overington. Theme by Alexander Overington.

Note: A version of this episode first ran on May 7, 2017.

Support our work. Become a Nancy member today at Nancypodcast.org/donate.    

May 08, 2020
Dispatch 5: Don't Stop Believin'
33:38

Covid-19 has put emergency room doctors on the frontlines treating an illness that is still perplexing and unknown. Jad tracks one ER doctor in NYC as the doctor puzzles through clues, doing research of his own, trying desperately to save patients' lives. 

This episode was produced by Jad Abumrad and Suzie Lechtenberg.

Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate 

May 06, 2020
Atomic Artifacts
41:42

Back in the 1950s, facing the threat of nuclear annihilation, federal officials sat down and pondered what American life would actually look like after an atomic attack. They faced a slew of practical questions like: Who would count the dead and where would they build the refugee camps? But they faced a more spiritual question as well. If Washington DC were hit, every object in the the National Archives would be eviscerated in a moment. Terrified by this reality, they set out to save some of America’s most precious stuff. 

Today, we look back at the items our Cold War era planners sought to save and we ask the question: In the year 2020, what objects would we preserve now? 

This episode was reported and produced by Simon Adler with editing from Pat Walters and reporting assistance from Tad Davis. 

Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate 

Apr 24, 2020
The Cataclysm Sentence
66:00

One day in 1961, the famous physicist Richard Feynman stepped in front of a Caltech lecture hall and posed this question to a group of undergraduate students: “If, in some cataclysm, all of scientific knowledge were to be destroyed, and only one sentence was passed on to the next generation of creatures, what statement would contain the most information in the fewest words?” Now, Feynman had an answer to his own question - a good one. But his question got the entire team at Radiolab wondering, what did his sentence leave out? So we posed Feynman’s cataclysm question to some of our favorite writers, artists, historians, futurists - all kinds of great thinkers. We asked them, “What’s the one sentence you would want to pass on to the next generation that would contain the most information in the fewest words?” What came back was an explosive collage of what it means to be alive right here and now, and what we want to say before we go.

Featuring:

Richard Feynman, physicist (The Pleasure of Finding Things Out)

Caitlin Doughty, mortician (Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs)

Esperanza Spalding, musician (12 Little Spells)

Cord Jefferson, writer (Watchmen)

Merrill Garbus, musician (I Can Feel You Creep Into My Private Life)

Jenny Odell, writer (How to do Nothing)

Maria Popova, writer (Brainpickings)

Alison Gopnik, developmental psychologist (The Gardener and the Carpenter)

Rebecca Sugar, animator (Steven Universe)

Nicholson Baker, writer (Substitute)

James Gleick, writer (Time Travel)

Lady Pink, artist (too many amazing works to pick just one)

Jenny Hollwell, writer (Everything Lovely, Effortless, Safe)

Jaron Lanier, futurist (Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now)

Missy Mazzoli, composer (Proving Up)

This episode was produced by Matt Kielty and Rachael Cusick, with help from Jeremy Bloom, Zakiya Gibbons, and the entire Radiolab staff. 

 

Special Thanks to:

Ella Frances Sanders, and her book, "Eating the Sun", for inspiring this whole episode.

Caltech for letting us use original audio of The Feynman Lectures on Physics. The entirety of the lectures are available to read for free online at www.feynmanlectures.caltech.edu.

 

All the musicians who helped make the Primordial Chord, including:

Siavash Kamkar, from Iran 

Koosha Pashangpour, from Iran

Curtis MacDonald, from Canada

Meade Bernard, from US

Barnaby Rea, from UK

Liav Kerbel, from Belgium

Sam Crittenden, from US

Saskia Lankhoorn, from Netherlands

Bryan Harris, from US

Amelia Watkins, from Canada

Claire James, from US

Ilario Morciano, from Italy

Matthias Kowalczyk, from Germany

Solmaz Badri, from Iran

 

All the wonderful people we interviewed for sentences but weren’t able to fit in this episode, including: Daniel Abrahm, Julia Alvarez, Aimee Bender, Sandra Cisneros, Stanley Chen, Lewis Dartnell, Ann Druyan, Rose Eveleth, Ty Frank, Julia Galef, Ross Gay, Gary Green, Cesar Harada, Dolores Huerta, Robin Hunicke, Brittany Kamai, Priya Krishna, Ken Liu, Carmen Maria Machado, James Martin, Judith Matloff, Ryan McMahon, Hasan Minhaj, Lorrie Moore, Priya Natarajan, Larry Owens, Sunni Patterson, Amy Pearl, Alison Roman, Domee Shi, Will Shortz, Sam Stein, Sohaib Sultan, Kara Swisher, Jill Tarter, Olive Watkins, Reggie Watts, Deborah Waxman, Alex Wellerstein, Caveh Zahedi.



Apr 18, 2020
Dispatch 4: Six Feet
19:06

Since the onset of the pandemic, we exist in a constant state of calculation, trying to define our own personal bubble. We’ve all been given a simple rule: maintain six feet of distance between yourself and others. But why six? Producer Sarah Qari uncovers the answer, and talks to some scientists who now say six might not be the right number after all. 

This episode was reported and produced by Sarah Qari and Pat Walters.

Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate 

Apr 11, 2020
Space
58:44

One of the most consistent questions we get at the show is from parents who want to know which episodes are kid-friendly and which aren’t. So today, we're releasing a separate feed, Radiolab for Kids. To kick it off, we're rerunning an all-time favorite episode: Space.

In the 60’s, space exploration was an American obsession. This hour, we chart the path from romance to increasing cynicism.

We begin with Ann Druyan, widow of Carl Sagan, with a story about the Voyager expedition, true love, and a golden record that travels through space. And astrophysicist Neil de Grasse Tyson explains the Coepernican Principle, and just how insignificant we are.

Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate 

 

 

Apr 06, 2020
Dispatch 3: Shared Immunity
38:13

More than a million people have caught Covid-19, and tens of thousands have died. But thousands more have survived and recovered. A week or so ago (aka, what feels like ten years in corona time) producer Molly Webster learned that many of those survivors possess a kind of superpower: antibodies trained to fight the virus. Not only that, they might be able to pass this power on to the people who are sick with corona, and still in the fight. Today we have the story of an experimental treatment that’s popping up all over the country: convalescent plasma transfusion, a century-old procedure that some say may become one of our best weapons against this devastating, new disease.

 

If you have recovered from Covid-19 and want to donate plasma, national and local donation registries are gearing up to collect blood. 

To sign up with the American Red Cross, a national organization that works in local communities, head here

To find out more about the The National COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma Project, which we spoke about in our episode, including information on clinical trials or plasma donation projects in your community, go here.

 And if you are in the greater New York City area, and want to donate convalescent plasma, head over to the New York Blood Center to sign up. Or, register with specific NYC hospitals here.

 

If you are sick with Covid-19, and are interested in participating in a clinical trial, or are looking for a plasma donor match, check in with your local hospital, university, or blood center for more; you can also find more information on trials at The National COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma Project.

And lastly, Tatiana Prowell’s tweet that tipped us off is here.

This episode was reported by Molly Webster and produced by Pat Walters. Special thanks to Drs. Evan Bloch and Tim Byun, as well as the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. 

Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate 

Apr 03, 2020
Dispatch 2: Every Day is Ignaz Semmelweis Day
34:06

It began with a tweet: “EVERY DAY IS IGNAZ SEMMELWEIS DAY.” Carl Zimmer — tweet author, acclaimed science writer and friend of the show — tells the story of a mysterious, deadly illness that struck 19th century Vienna, and the ill-fated hero who uncovered its cure … and gave us our best weapon (so far) against the current global pandemic.


This episode was reported and produced with help from Bethel Habte and Latif Nasser.

Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate

Apr 01, 2020
Dispatch 1: Numbers
32:30

In a recent Radiolab group huddle, with coronavirus unraveling around us, the team found themselves grappling with all the numbers connected to COVID-19. Our new found 6 foot bubbles of personal space. Three percent mortality rate (or 1, or 2, or 4). 7,000 cases (now, much much more). So in the wake of that meeting, we reflect on the onslaught of numbers - what they reveal, and what they hide. 

Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate

Mar 27, 2020
The Other Latif: Episode 6
50:46

The Other Latif

Radiolab’s Latif Nasser always believed his name was unique, singular, completely his own. Until one day when he makes a bizarre and shocking discovery. He shares his name with another man: Abdul Latif Nasser, detainee 244 at Guantanamo Bay. The U.S. government paints a terrifying picture of The Other Latif as Al-Qaeda’s top explosives expert, and one of the most important advisors to Osama bin Laden. Nasser’s lawyer claims that he was at the wrong place at the wrong time, and that he was never even in Al-Qaeda. This clash leads Radiolab’s Latif into a years-long investigation, picking apart evidence, attempting to separate fact from fiction, and trying to uncover what this man actually did or didn’t do. Along the way, Radiolab’s Latif reflects on American values and his own religious past, and wonders how his namesake, a fellow nerdy, suburban Muslim kid, may have gone down such a strikingly different path.

 

Episode 6: Washington, D.C.

Despite being cleared for transfer back to his family in Morocco in 2016, Abdul Latif Nasser remains stuck at Guantanamo Bay. Why? Latif talks to some of the civil servants actually responsible for Abdul Latif’s transfer and they tell him a dramatic story of what went on behind the scenes at some of the highest levels of government.  It’s a surprisingly riveting story of paperwork, where what’s at stake is not only the fate of one man, but also the soul of America.  

This episode was produced by Sarah Qari, Annie McEwen, Suzie Lechtenberg, and Latif Nasser, and reported by Sarah Qari and Latif Nasser. Fact checking by Diane Kelly and Margot Williams. Editing by Jad Abumrad and Soren Wheeler. Original music by Jad Abumrad, Dylan Keefe, Alex Overington, and Amino Belyamani. 

Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate

Mar 17, 2020
The Other Latif: Episode 5
57:21

The Other Latif

Radiolab’s Latif Nasser always believed his name was unique, singular, completely his own. Until one day when he makes a bizarre and shocking discovery. He shares his name with another man: Abdul Latif Nasser, detainee 244 at Guantanamo Bay. The U.S. government paints a terrifying picture of The Other Latif as Al-Qaeda’s top explosives expert, and one of the most important advisors to Osama bin Laden. Nasser’s lawyer claims that he was at the wrong place at the wrong time, and that he was never even in Al-Qaeda. This clash leads Radiolab’s Latif into a years-long investigation, picking apart evidence, attempting to separate fact from fiction, and trying to uncover what this man actually did or didn’t do. Along the way, Radiolab’s Latif reflects on American values and his own religious past, and wonders how his namesake, a fellow nerdy, suburban Muslim kid, may have gone down such a strikingly different path.

 

Episode 5: Cuba-ish

Latif heads to Guantanamo Bay to try to speak to his namesake.  Before he gets there, he attempts to answer a seemingly simple question: why Cuba? Why in the world did the United States pick this sleepy military base in the Caribbean to house “the worst of the worst”?  He tours the “legal equivalent of outer space,” and against all odds, manages to see his doppelgänger… maybe.

This episode was produced by Bethel Habte and Simon Adler, with Sarah Qari, Suzie Lechtenberg, and Latif Nasser. Help from W. Harry Fortuna and Neel Dhanesha. Fact checking by Diane Kelly and Margot Williams. Editing by Jad Abumrad and Soren Wheeler. Original music by Jad Abumrad, Simon Adler, Alex Overington, and Amino Belyamani.

Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate

Mar 06, 2020
The Other Latif: Bonus Episode!
20:04

The Other Latif

Radiolab’s Latif Nasser always believed his name was unique, singular, completely his own. Until one day when he makes a bizarre and shocking discovery. He shares his name with another man: Abdul Latif Nasser, detainee 244 at Guantanamo Bay. The U.S. government paints a terrifying picture of The Other Latif as Al-Qaeda’s top explosives expert, and one of the most important advisors to Osama bin Laden. Nasser’s lawyer claims that he was at the wrong place at the wrong time, and that he was never even in Al-Qaeda. This clash leads Radiolab’s Latif into a years-long investigation, picking apart evidence, attempting to separate fact from fiction, and trying to uncover what this man actually did or didn’t do. Along the way, Radiolab’s Latif reflects on American values and his own religious past, and wonders how his namesake, a fellow nerdy, suburban Muslim kid, may have gone down such a strikingly different path.



BONUS EPISODE

Since we released the first episode of The Other Latif, we’ve been contacted by many new sources. Which is great! But it also means we need a little extra time to cobble together Episodes 5 and 6. So while we wait, Jad and Latif chat about Abdul Latif’s response to the series, a character who fell out of episode 4, and a tiny moment in Latif’s youth that helped put him on the path he’s on now.

This episode was produced by Suzie Lechtenberg and Latif Nasser. Editing by Jad Abumrad and Soren Wheeler. With help from Sarah Qari.

Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate

Mar 03, 2020
The Other Latif: Episode 4
61:59

The Other Latif

Radiolab’s Latif Nasser always believed his name was unique, singular, completely his own. Until one day when he makes a bizarre and shocking discovery. He shares his name with another man: Abdul Latif Nasser, detainee 244 at Guantanamo Bay. The U.S. government paints a terrifying picture of The Other Latif as Al-Qaeda’s top explosives expert, and one of the most important advisors to Osama bin Laden. Nasser’s lawyer claims that he was at the wrong place at the wrong time, and that he was never even in Al-Qaeda. This clash leads Radiolab’s Latif into a years-long investigation, picking apart evidence, attempting to separate fact from fiction, and trying to uncover what this man actually did or didn’t do. Along the way, Radiolab’s Latif reflects on American values and his own religious past, and wonders how his namesake, a fellow nerdy, suburban Muslim kid, may have gone down such a strikingly different path.

 

Episode 4: Afghanistan 

Latif investigates the mystery around Abdul Latif’s classified time in Afghanistan. He traces the government’s story through scrappy training camps, bombed out Buddhas, and McDonald’s apple pies to the very center of the Battle of Tora Bora.  Could Abdul Latif have helped the most sought-after and hated terrorist in modern history, Osama bin Laden, escape? The episode ends with a bombshell jailhouse interview with Abdul Latif, the most reliable evidence yet of what was going on in this man’s mind in the months after 9/11.

This episode was produced by Annie McEwen, Sarah Qari, Suzie Lechtenberg, and Latif Nasser. Fact checking by Diane Kelly and Margot Williams. Editing by Jad Abumrad and Soren Wheeler. With help from Neel Dhanesha, Kelly Prime, and Audrey Quinn. Original music by Jad Abumrad, Alex Overington, Annie McEwen, and Amino Belyamani. 

Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate

Feb 25, 2020
The Other Latif: Episode 3
36:54

The Other Latif

Radiolab’s Latif Nasser always believed his name was unique, singular, completely his own. Until one day when he makes a bizarre and shocking discovery. He shares his name with another man: Abdul Latif Nasser, detainee 244 at Guantanamo Bay. The U.S. government paints a terrifying picture of The Other Latif as Al-Qaeda’s top explosives expert, and one of the most important advisors to Osama bin Laden. Nasser’s lawyer claims that he was at the wrong place at the wrong time, and that he was never even in Al-Qaeda. This clash leads Radiolab’s Latif into a years-long investigation, picking apart evidence, attempting to separate fact from fiction, and trying to uncover what this man actually did or didn’t do. Along the way, Radiolab’s Latif reflects on American values and his own religious past, and wonders how his namesake, a fellow nerdy, suburban Muslim kid, may have gone down such a strikingly different path.

 

Episode 3: Sudan

Latif turns his focus to Sudan, where his namesake spent time working on a sunflower farm. What could be suspicious about that?  Latif scrutinizes the evidence to try to discover whether - as Abdul Latif’s lawyer insists - it was just an innocent clerical job, or - as the government alleges - it was where he decided to become an extremist fighter.  

This episode was produced by Suzie Lechtenberg, Sarah Qari, and Latif Nasser. With help from Niza Nondo and Maaki Monem. Fact checking by Diane Kelly and Margot Williams. Editing by Jad Abumrad and Soren Wheeler. Original music by Jad Abumrad, Alex Overington, Jeremy Bloom, and Amino Belyamani. 

If you caught this episode on the radio, and want to learn or hear more from the excellent podcast Love Me, check them out here: https://www.cbc.ca/radio/loveme and to learn more about Mansoor Adafyi, check out his new book Don't Forget Us.

Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate

Feb 18, 2020
The Other Latif: Episode 2
46:00

The Other Latif

Radiolab’s Latif Nasser always believed his name was unique, singular, completely his own. Until one day when he makes a bizarre and shocking discovery. He shares his name with another man: Abdul Latif Nasser, detainee 244 at Guantanamo Bay. The U.S. government paints a terrifying picture of The Other Latif as Al-Qaeda’s top explosives expert, and one of the most important advisors to Osama bin Laden. Nasser’s lawyer claims that he was at the wrong place at the wrong time, and that he was never even in Al-Qaeda. This clash leads Radiolab’s Latif into a years-long investigation, picking apart evidence, attempting to separate fact from fiction, and trying to uncover what this man actually did or didn’t do. Along the way, Radiolab’s Latif reflects on American values and his own religious past, and wonders how his namesake, a fellow nerdy, suburban Muslim kid, may have gone down such a strikingly different path.

 

Episode 2: Morocco

Latif travels to Abdul Latif’s hometown of Casablanca, Morocco, to try and find out: was he radicalized? And if so, how? Latif begins by visiting the man’s family, but the family’s reaction to him gets complicated as Latif digs for the truth. He finds out surprising information on a political group Abdul Latif joined in his youth, his alleged onramp to extremism. Tensions escalate when Latif realizes he’s being tailed. 

Read more about Abdul Latif Nasser at the New York Times’ Guantanamo Docket. 

This episode was produced by Sarah Qari, Suzie Lechtenberg, and Latif Nasser. With help from Tarik El Barakah and Amira Karaoud. Fact checking by Diane Kelly and Margot Williams. Editing by Jad Abumrad and Soren Wheeler. Original music by Jad Abumrad, Alex Overington, and Amino Belyamani. 

Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate

Feb 11, 2020
The Other Latif: Episode 1
41:46

The Other Latif

Radiolab’s Latif Nasser always believed his name was unique, singular, completely his own. Until one day when he makes a bizarre and shocking discovery. He shares his name with another man: Abdul Latif Nasser, detainee 244 at Guantanamo Bay. The U.S. government paints a terrifying picture of The Other Latif as Al-Qaeda’s top explosives expert, and one of the most important advisors to Osama bin Laden. Nasser’s lawyer claims that he was at the wrong place at the wrong time, and that he was never even in Al-Qaeda. This clash leads Radiolab’s Latif into a years-long investigation, picking apart evidence, attempting to separate fact from fiction, and trying to uncover what this man actually did or didn’t do. Along the way, Radiolab’s Latif reflects on American values and his own religious past, and wonders how his namesake, a fellow nerdy, suburban Muslim kid, may have gone down such a strikingly different path.

 

Episode 1: My Namesake

We hear the evidence against Abdul Latif Nasser -- at least the evidence that has been leaked or declassified -- and we meet Shelby Sullivan-Bennis, his attorney, who contests more or less every government claim against him. Sullivan-Bennis walks us through the excruciating process that came close to releasing Abdul Latif Nasser in the waning days of the Obama administration, but fell apart at the last minute. He is now technically a free man -- he was cleared for transfer home in 2016 -- yet he remains stuck at Guantanamo Bay, thanks in part to a Presidential Tweet.

 

Read more about Abdul Latif Nasser at the New York Times’ Guantanamo Docket. 

This episode was produced by Annie McEwen, Latif Nasser, Sarah Qari, and Suzie Lechtenberg. Fact checking by Diane Kelly and Margot Williams. Editing by Jad Abumrad and Soren Wheeler. Original music by Jad Abumrad, Alex Overington, Annie McEwen, and Amino Belyamani. 

Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate

  

Feb 04, 2020
The Bobbys
48:09

On the occasion of his retirement as cohost of Radiolab, Robert sat down with Jad to reflect on his long and storied career in radio and television, and their work together over the past decade and a half. And we pay tribute to Robert, inspired by a peculiar tradition of his.

This episode was produced by Matt Kielty. Sound design & mix by Jeremy Bloom.

Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate

Jan 31, 2020
Body Count
45:53

Right now, at this very moment, all across the planet, there are 7.6 billion human beings eating, breathing, sleeping, brushing their teeth, walking their dogs, drinking coffee, walking down the street or running onto the subway or hopping in their car, maybe reading a summary of a podcast they’re about to hit play on … and the number is only going up. Everyday 386,000 babies are born (16,000 an hour). We’re adding a billion new people every 12 years.

So here’s a question you’ve probably never thought about: Are there more people alive right now than have ever lived on the planet in history? Do the living outnumber the dead? Robert got obsessed with this odd question, and in this episode we bring you the answer. Or, well, answers.

This episode was reported by Robert Krulwich and produced by Annie McEwen and Pat Walters, with help from Neel Dhanesha. Fact-checking by Michelle Harris. Music and mixing by Jeremy Bloom. Special thanks to Jeffrey Dobereiner.

Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate

Jan 24, 2020
60 Words
64:59

This hour we pull apart one sentence, written in the hours after September 11th, 2001, that has led to the longest war in U.S. history. We examine how just 60 words of legal language have blurred the line between war and peace.

Last weekend President Trump authorized a strike that killed Iranian General Qasem Soleimani in Iraq. The news had us thinking about an episode we produced in 2014. We pulled apart one sentence, written in the hours after September 11th, 2001, that has led to the longest war in U.S. history. We examine how just 60 words of legal language have blurred the line between war and peace.

In the hours after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, a lawyer sat down in front of a computer and started writing a legal justification for taking action against those responsible. The language that he drafted and that President George W. Bush signed into law - called the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) -  has at its heart one single sentence, 60 words long. Over the last decade, those 60 words have become the legal foundation for the "war on terror."

In this collaboration with BuzzFeed, reporter Gregory Johnsen tells us the story of how this has come to be one of the most important, confusing, troubling sentences of the last two decades. We go into the meetings that took place in the chaotic days just after 9/11, speak with Congresswoman Barbara Lee and former Congressman Ron Dellums about the vote on the AUMF. We hear from former White House and State Department lawyers John Bellinger & Harold Koh. We learn how this legal language unleashed Guantanamo, Navy Seal raids and drone strikes. And we speak with journalist Daniel Klaidman, legal expert Benjamin Wittes and Virginia Senator Tim Kaine about how these words came to be interpreted, and what they mean for the future of war and peace.

Finally, we check back in with Wittes, to see how the AUMF has trickled into the 2020s.

Produced by Matt Kielty and Kelsey Padgett with original music by Dylan Keefe. 

Watch Congresswomen Barbara Lee's speech here

Jan 07, 2020
Man Against Horse
58:44

This is a story about your butt. It’s a story about how you got your butt, why you have your butt, and how your butt might be one of the most important and essential things for you being you, for being human. 

Today, reporters Heather Radke and Matt Kielty talk to two researchers who followed the butt from our ancient beginnings, through millions of years of evolution, and all the way to today, out to a valley in Arizona, where our butts are put to the ultimate test.  

This episode was reported by Heather Radke and Matt Kielty and was produced by Matt Kielty, Rachael Cusick and Simon Adler. Sound design and mixing by Jeremy Bloom. Fact-checking by Dorie Chevlen.

Special thanks to Michelle Legro.

Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate

Dec 28, 2019
There and Back Again
44:58

Here's a simple question: When an animal disappears in the winter, where does it go? Oddly enough, this question completely stumped European scientists for thousands of years. And even today, the more we learn about the comings and goings of the animals, the deeper the mystery seems to get. We visit a Bavarian farm with an 11 year old, follow warblers and wildebeests around the world, and get a totally new kind of view of the pulsing flow of animals across the globe.  

This episode was reported by Robert Krulwich and Jackson Roach and produced by Pat Walters, Matt Kielty, and Jackson Roach. Mix & original music by Jeremy Bloom.

 

Special thanks to Allison Shaw, David Barrie, Auriel Fournier, and Moritz Matschke.

Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate

And check out:

The Truth about Animals by Lucy Cooke

No Way Home: The Decline of the Great Animal Migrations by David Wilcove 

The migration video Jad and Robert watch in this episode!

Dec 18, 2019
Things
61:18

From a piece of the Wright brother's plane to a child’s sugar egg, today: Things! Important things, little things, personal things, things you can hold and things that can take hold of you. This hour, we investigate the objects around us, their power to move us, and whether it's better to look back or move on, hold on tight or just let go.

Dec 12, 2019
An Announcement from Radiolab

 

 

 

Dec 05, 2019
Breaking Bongo
63:36

Deep fake videos have the potential to make it impossible to sort fact from fiction. And some have argued that this blackhole of doubt will eventually send truth itself into a death spiral. But a series of recent events in the small African nation of Gabon suggest it's already happening. 

Today, we follow a ragtag group of freedom fighters as they troll Gabon’s president - Ali Bongo - from afar. Using tweets, videos and the uncertainty they can carry, these insurgents test the limits of using truth to create political change and, confusingly, force us to ask: Can fake news be used for good?

This episode was reported and produced by Simon Adler.

Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate

Nov 27, 2019
Breaking News
49:11

Today, we're re-releasing an old episode about how hard it is getting to decipher fact from fiction. Because next week, we’ll be putting out a story showing what happens when certain reality-altering tools get released into the wild. 

Simon Adler takes us down a technological rabbit hole of strangely contorted faces and words made out of thin air. And a wonderland full of computer scientists, journalists, and digital detectives forces us to rethink even the things we see with our very own eyes. 

Oh, and by the way, we decided to put the dark secrets we learned into action, and unleash this on the internet. 

 

Reported by Simon Adler. Produced by Simon Adler and Annie McEwen.

Special thanks to everyone on the University of Southern California team who helped out with the facial manipulation: Kyle Olszewski, Koki Nagano, Ronald Yu, Yi Zhou, Jaewoo Seo, Shunsuke Saito, and Hao Li. Check out more of their work pinscreen.com

Special thanks also to Matthew Aylett, Supasorn Suwajanakorn, Rachel Axler, Angus Kneale, David Carroll, Amy Pearl and Nick Bilton. You can check out Nick’s latest book, American Kingpin, here.

Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.

Nov 19, 2019
Dolly Parton's America: Neon Moss
45:02

Today on Radiolab, we're bringing you the fourth episode of Jad's special series, Dolly Parton's America. In this episode, Jad goes back up the mountain to visit Dolly’s actual Tennessee mountain home, where she tells stories about her first trips out of the holler. Back on the mountaintop, standing under the rain by the Little Pigeon River, the trip triggers memories of Jad’s first visit to his father's childhood home, and opens the gateway to dizzying stories of music and migration.

Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate

Nov 08, 2019
Songs that Cross Borders
26:02

Coming off our adventures with Square Dancing, and Jad's dive into the world of Dolly Parton, we look back at one our favorites. About a decade ago, we found out that American country music is surprising popular in places like Zimbabwe, Thailand, and South Africa. Aaron Fox, an anthropologist of music at Columbia University, tells us that quite simply, country music tells a story that a lot of us get. Then, intrepid international reporter Gregory Warner takes us along on one of his very first forays into another country, where he discovers an unexpected taste of home.

Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate

Aaron Foxes book: Real Country: Music And Language In Working-Class Culture 

Gregory Warner's podcast Rough Translation 

Oct 30, 2019
Birdie in the Cage
45:19

People have been doing the square dance since before the Declaration of Independence. But does that mean it should be THE American folk dance? That question took us on a journey from Appalachian front porches, to dance classes across our nation, to the halls of Congress, and finally a Kansas City convention center. And along the way, we uncovered a secret history of square dancing that made us see how much of our national identity we could stuff into that square, and what it means for a dance to be of the people, by the people, and for the people. 

Special thanks to Jim Mayo, Claude Fowler, Paul Gifford, Jim Maczko, Jim Davis, Paul Moore, Jack Pladdys, Mary Jane Wegener, Kinsey Brooke and Connie Keener. 

This episode was reported by Tracie Hunte and produced by Annie McEwen, Tracie Hunte, and Matt Kielty. Mix by Jeremy Bloom.

Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate

 

Check out Phil Jamison's book,  “Hoedowns, Reels, and Frolics: Roots and Branches of Southern Appalachian Dance

Watch this 1948 Lucky Strike Cigarette Square Dancing Commercial

A rare image of Black Square Dancers in 1948

The Square Dance History Project

Read “America’s Wholesome Square Dancing Tradition is a Tool of White Supremacy,” by Robyn Pennachia for Quartz

And Pennachia’s original Twitter thread

Read “The State Folk Dance Conspiracy: Fabricating a National Folk Dance,” by Julianne Mangin

 

Oct 23, 2019
Radiolab Presents: Dolly Parton's America
60:34

Radiolab creator and host Jad Abumrad spent the last two years following around music legend Dolly Parton, and we're here to say you should tune in! In this episode of Radiolab, we showcase the first of Jad's special series, Dolly Parton's America. In this intensely divided moment, one of the few things everyone still seems to agree on is Dolly Parton—but why? That simple question leads to a deeply personal, historical, and musical rethinking of one of America’s great icons. 

We begin with a simple question: How did the queen of the boob joke become a feminist icon? Helen Morales, author of “Pilgrimage to Dollywood,” gave us a stern directive – look at the lyrics! So we dive into Dolly’s discography, starting with the early period of what Dolly calls “sad ass songs” to find remarkably prescient words of female pain, slut-shaming, domestic violence, and women being locked away in asylums by cheating husbands. We explore how Dolly took the centuries-old tradition of the Appalachian “murder ballad”—an oral tradition of men singing songs about brutally killing women—and flipped the script, singing from the woman’s point of view. And as her career progresses, the songs expand beyond the pain to tell tales of leaving abuse behind.

How can such pro-woman lyrics come from someone who despises the word feminism? Dolly explains.  

 

Check out Dolly Parton's America here at: https://www.wnycstudios.org/podcasts/dolly-partons-america 

Oct 16, 2019
Silky Love
35:43

We eat eels in sushi, stews, and pasta. Eels eat anything. Also they can survive outside of water for hours and live for up to 80 years. But this slippery snake of the sea harbors an even deeper mystery, one that has tormented the minds of Aristotle and Sigmund Freud and apparently the entire country of Italy: Where do they come from? We travel from the estuaries of New York to the darkest part of the ocean in search of the limits of human knowledge.

This episode was produced by Matt Kielty and Becca Bressler. 

Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate

Further reading:

Lucy Cooke's book The Truth about Animals!

Chris Bowser's Eel Research Project

Sep 27, 2019
Tit for Tat
24:45

In the early 60s, Robert Axelrod was a math major messing around with refrigerator-sized computers. Then a dramatic global crisis made him wonder about the space between a rock and a hard place, and whether being good may be a good strategy. With help from Andrew Zolli and Steve Strogatz, we tackle the prisoner’s dilemma, a classic thought experiment, and learn about a simple strategy to navigate the waters of cooperation and betrayal. Then Axelrod, along with Stanley Weintraub, takes us back to the trenches of World War I, to the winter of 1914, and an unlikely Christmas party along the Western Front.

 

 

Sep 17, 2019
What's Left When You're Right?
60:44

More often than not, a fight is just a fight... Someone wins, someone loses. But this hour, we have a series of face-offs that shine a light on the human condition, the benefit of coming at something from a different side, and the price of being right.

Special thanks to Mark Dresser for the use of his music.

 

Sep 05, 2019
The Memory Palace
41:34

Nate DiMeo was preoccupied with the past, and how we relate to it, from a very young age. For the last decade or so he's been scratching this itch with The Memory Palace, a podcast he created. He does things very differently than we do, but his show has captured the hearts of Radiolab staffers, past and present, time and time again. 

So we decided to get Nate into the studio to share a few of his episodes with us and talk to us about how and why he does what he does. He brought us stories about the Morse Code, the draft lottery, and then he hit us with a brand new episode about a bull on trial, that bounces off a story we did pretty recently.

More history on scrub bulls.

Follow @thememorypalace on Twitter.

This episode was produced with help from Bethel Habte. 

Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate

 

Other staff favorites:

Zulu Charlie Romeo

Notes on an Imagined Plaque

Snakes!

Outliers

 

Aug 28, 2019
Right to be Forgotten
47:22

In an online world, that story about you lives forever. The tipsy photograph of you at the college football game? It’s up there. That news article about the political rally you were marching at? It’s up there. A DUI? That’s there, too. But what if ... it wasn’t.

In Cleveland, Ohio, a group of journalists are trying out an experiment that has the potential to turn things upside down: they are unpublishing content they’ve already published. Photographs, names, entire articles. Every month or so, they get together to decide what content stays, and what content goes. On today’s episode, reporter Molly Webster goes inside the room where the decisions are being made, listening case-by-case as editors decide who, or what, gets to be deleted. It’s a story about time and memory; mistakes and second chances; and society as we know it.

This episode was reported by Molly Webster, and produced by Molly Webster and Bethel Habte. 

Special thanks to Kathy English, David Erdos, Ed Haber, Brewster Kahle, Imani Leonard, Ruth Samuel, James Bennett II, Alice Wilder, Alex Overington, Jane Kamensky and all the people who helped shape this story.

Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate

To learn more about Cleveland.com’s “right to be forgotten experiment,” check out the very first column Molly read about the project.

Aug 23, 2019
More Perfect: Cruel and Unusual
58:04

On the inaugural episode of More Perfect, we explore three little words embedded in the 8th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution: “cruel and unusual.” America has long wrestled with this concept in the context of our strongest punishment, the death penalty. A majority of “we the people” (61 percent, to be exact) are in favor of having it, but inside the Supreme Court, opinions have evolved over time in surprising ways.

And outside of the court, the debate drove one woman in the UK to take on the U.S. death penalty system from Europe. It also caused states to resuscitate old methods used for executing prisoners on death row. And perhaps more than anything, it forced a conversation on what constitutes cruel and unusual punishment.

Special thanks to Claire Phillips, Nina Perry, Stephanie Jenkins, Ralph Dellapiana, Byrd Pinkerton, Elisabeth Semel, Christina Spaulding, and The Marshall Project

Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate

Also! We’re working on collecting some audience feedback so we can do a better job of getting our show out to all of you, interacting with you, and reaching new people. We’d love to hear from you. Go to www.radiolab.org/survey to participate.

Aug 09, 2019
G: The World's Smartest Animal
48:37

This episode begins with a rant. This rant, in particular, comes from Dan Engber - a science writer who loves animals but despises animal intelligence research. Dan told us that so much of the way we study animals involves tests that we think show a human is smart ... not the animals we intend to study. 

Dan’s rant got us thinking: What is the smartest animal in the world? And if we threw out our human intelligence rubric, is there a fair way to figure it out?

Obviously, there is. And it’s a live game show, judged by Jad, Robert … and a dog.

For the last episode of G, Radiolab’s miniseries on intelligence, we’re sharing that game show with you. It was recorded as a live show back in May 2019 at the Greene Space in New York City. We invited two science writers, Dan Engber and Laurel Braitman, and two comedians, Tracy Clayton and Jordan Mendoza, to compete against one another to find the world’s smartest animal. What resulted were a series of funny, delightful stories about unexpectedly smart animals and a shift in the way we think about intelligence across all the animals - including us.

Check out the video of our live event here

This episode was produced by Rachael Cusick and Pat Walters, with help from Nora Keller and Suzie Lechtenberg. Fact-checking by Michelle Harris and Dorie Chevlin.

Special thanks to Bill Berloni and Macy (the dog) and everyone at The Greene Space.

Radiolab’s “G” is supported in part by Science Sandbox, a Simons Foundation initiative dedicated to engaging everyone with the process of science.

Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate

Jul 30, 2019
G: Unnatural Selection
34:07

This past fall, a scientist named Steve Hsu made headlines with a provocative announcement. He would start selling a genetic intelligence test to couples doing IVF: a sophisticated prediction tool, built on big data and machine learning, designed to help couples select the best embryo in their batch. We wondered, how does that work? What can the test really say? And do we want to live in a world where certain people can decide how smart their babies will be?

This episode was produced by Simon Adler, with help from Rachael Cusick and Pat Walters. Fact-checking by Michelle Harris. Engineering help from Jeremy Bloom.

Special thanks to Catherine Bliss.

Radiolab’s “G” is supported in part by Science Sandbox, a Simons Foundation initiative dedicated to engaging everyone with the process of science.

Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate

Jul 26, 2019
G: Relative Genius
62:55

Albert Einstein asked that when he died, his body be cremated and his ashes be scattered in a secret location. He didn’t want his grave, or his body, becoming a shrine to his genius. When he passed away in the early morning hours of April, 18, 1955, his family knew his wishes. There was only one problem: the pathologist who did the autopsy had different plans.

In the third episode of “G”, Radiolab’s miniseries on intelligence, we go on one of the strangest scavenger hunts for genius the world has ever seen. We follow Einstein’s stolen brain from that Princeton autopsy table, to a cider box in Wichita, Kansas, to labs all across the country. And eventually, beyond the brain itself entirely. All the while wondering, where exactly is the genius of a man who changed the way we view the world? 

 

This episode was reported by Rachael Cusick and Pat Walters, and produced by Bethel Habte, Rachael Cusick, and Pat Walters. Music by Alex Overington and Jad Abumrad. 

Special thanks to: Elanor Taylor, Claudia Kalb, Dustin O’Halloran, Tim Huson, The Einstein Papers Project, and all the physics for (us) dummies Youtube videos that accomplished the near-impossible feat of helping us understand relativity.

Radiolab’s “G” is supported in part by Science Sandbox, a Simons Foundation initiative dedicated to engaging everyone with the process of science.

Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate

Jun 28, 2019
G: Problem Space
40:25

In the first episode of G, Radiolab’s miniseries on intelligence, we went back to the 1970s to meet a group of Black parents who put the IQ test on trial. The lawsuit, Larry P v Riles, ended with a ban on IQ tests for all Black students in the state of California, a ban that’s still in place today.

This week, we meet the families in California dealing with that ban forty years later. Families the ban was designed to protect, but who now say it discriminates against their children. How much have IQ tests changed since the 70s? And can they be used for good? We talk to the people responsible for designing the most widely used modern IQ test, and along the way, we find out that at the very same moment the IQ test was being put on trial in California, on the other side of the country, it was being used to solve one of the biggest public health problems of the 20th century.

This episode was reported and produced by Pat Walters, Rachael Cusick and Jad Abumrad, with production help from Bethel Habte.

Music by Alex Overington. Fact-checking by Diane Kelly.

Special thanks to Lee Romney, Chenjerai Kumanyika, Moira Gunn and Tech Nation, and Lee Rosevere for his song All the Answers.

Radiolab’s “G” is supported in part by Science Sandbox, a Simons Foundation initiative dedicated to engaging everyone with the process of science.

Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate

Jun 14, 2019
G: The Miseducation of Larry P
64:01

Are some ideas so dangerous we shouldn’t even talk about them? That question brought Radiolab’s senior editor, Pat Walters, to a subject that at first he thought was long gone: the measuring of human intelligence with IQ tests. Turns out, the tests are all around us. In the workplace. The criminal justice system. Even the NFL. And they’re massive in schools. More than a million US children are IQ tested every year.

We begin Radiolab Presents: “G” with a sentence that stopped us all in our tracks: In the state of California, it is off-limits to administer an IQ test to a child if he or she is Black. That’s because of a little-known case called Larry P v Riles that in the 1970s … put the IQ test itself on trial. With the help of reporter Lee Romney, we investigate how that lawsuit came to be, where IQ tests came from, and what happened to one little boy who got caught in the crossfire.

This episode was reported and produced by Lee Romney, Rachael Cusick and Pat Walters.

Music by Alex Overington. Fact-checking by Diane Kelly.

Special thanks to Elie Mistal, Chenjerai Kumanyika, Amanda Stern, Nora Lyons, Ki Sung, Public Advocates, Michelle Wilson, Peter Fernandez, John Schaefer. Lee Romney’s reporting was supported in part by USC’s Center for Health Journalism.

Radiolab’s “G” is supported in part by Science Sandbox, a Simons Foundation initiative dedicated to engaging everyone with the process of science.

Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.

Jun 07, 2019
Neither Confirm Nor Deny
27:31

 How a sunken nuclear submarine, a crazy billionaire, and a mechanical claw gave birth to a phrase that has hounded journalists and lawyers for 40 years and embodies the tension between the public’s desire for transparency and the government’s need to keep secrets.  

Whether it comes from government spokespeople or celebrity publicists, the phrase “can neither confirm nor deny” is the perfect non-denial denial. It’s such a perfect deflection that it seems like it’s been around forever, but reporter Julia Barton takes us back to the 1970s and the surprising origin story of what’s now known as a “Glomar Response.” With help from David Sharp and Walt Logan, we tell the story of a clandestine CIA operation to lift a sunken Soviet submarine from the ocean floor and the dilemma they faced when the world found out about it.

 

In the 40 years since that operation, the Glomar Response has become boilerplate language from an array of government agencies. With help from ProPublica editor Jeff Larson and NPR’s Dina Temple-Raston, we explore the implications of this ultimate information dodge. ACLU lawyer Jameel Jaffer explains how it stymies oversight, and we learn that, even 40 years later, governmental secrecy can be emotionally painful.

 

After listening to the story ... 

 

After 40 years, many of the details of Project Azorian are only now coming to light. The US government’s default position has been to keep as much of it classified as possible. It took three years for retired CIA employee David Sharp to get permission to publish his account of Project Azorian. And FOIA played an indirect role in that, as Cold War historians got the CIA to release, in redacted form, an internal history of the mission. After that and a threat of legal action, Sharp was finally able to publish his manuscript in 2012.

 

We mentioned conspiracy theories that have swirled around Project Azorian filling the void where official silence has reigned. One of them is promulgated in the 2005 book “Red Star Rogue” by Kenneth Sewell and Clint Richmond. They posit that the K-129 was taken over by rogue Stalinist KGB agents in order to start a nuclear conflict. But the conflict was to be between the US and China, as, according to the authors, the sub had powers to disguise its sonic signature as a Chinese Navy vessel.

 

This book is the basis of the 2013 drama “Phantom,” which features Ed Harris and David Duchovny as Soviet military officers who sip vodka in a very un-Russian way.

 

Russian Naval historians, like Nikolai Cherkashin, are not only insulted by this take on the cause of the K-129’s demise, they say the true cause is much easier to pinpoint: They say an American vessel, possibly the USS Swordfish, collided with the Soviet submarine. 

 

Despite the fact that the US government has turned over many documents about Project Azorian and what it found to the Russian government, many in the Russian Navy stand by their theory that it was far too easy for the US to locate the K-129 on the bottom of the Pacific, given the technology of the time. According to these theories, Project Azorian was nothing more than an elaborate cover-up disguised as... an elaborate cover-up. We can neither confirm nor deny that we exactly understand how that would have worked in practice or execution.

 

But for our money, there’s probably no stranger and more telling document from this time than a video of the funeral at sea for Soviet sailors ostensibly recovered by the US during Project Azorian. Audio of the service starts at 1:25 in this post. Eulogies and rites are performed in both English and Russian (albeit with an American accent).

 

It’s one of the more solemn moments of the Cold War, and one that the Glomar Response helped keep a secret for a very long time.

Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate

 

Jun 04, 2019
The Good Samaritan
70:59

On a Tuesday afternoon back in the summer of 2017, Scotty Hatton and Scottie Wightman both made a decision to help someone in need. They both paid a price for their actions that day, which have led to a legal, moral, and scientific puzzle about how we balance accountability and forgiveness. 

In this episode, we go to Bath County, Kentucky, where, as one health official put it, opioids have created “a hole the size of Kentucky.” We talk to the people on all sides of this story about stemming the tide of overdoses, we wrestle with the science of poison and fear, and we try to figure out when the drive to protect and help those around us should rise above the law.

This story was reported by Peter Andrey Smith with Matt Kielty, and produced by Matt Kielty.

Special thanks to Earl Willis, Bobby Ratliff, Ronnie Goldie, Megan Fisher, Alan Caudill, Nick Jones, Dan Wermerling, Terry Bunn, Robin Thompson and the staff at KIPRC, Charles Landon, Charles P Gore, Jim McCarthy, Ann Marie Farina, Dr. Jeremy Faust and Dr. Ed Boyer, Justin Brower, Kathy Robinson, Zoe Renfro, John Bucknell, Chris Moraff, Jeremiah Laster, Tommy Kane, Jim McCarthy, Sarah Wakeman, and Al Tompkins. 

Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate

 

 

CDC recommendations on helping people who overdose: https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/pdf/patients/Preventing-an-Opioid-Overdose-Tip-Card-a.pdf

Find out where to get naloxone: https://prevent-protect.org/

 

 

 

 

May 24, 2019
Bit Flip
56:07

Back in 2003, Belgium was holding a national election. One of their first where the votes would be cast and counted on computers. Thousands of hours of preparation went into making it unhackable. And when the day of the vote came, everything seemed to have gone well. That was, until a cosmic chain of events caused a single bit to flip and called the outcome into question.

Today on Radiolab, we travel from a voting booth in Brussels to the driver's seat of a runaway car in the Carolinas, exploring the massive effects tiny bits of stardust can have on us unwitting humans.

This episode was reported and produced by Simon Adler and Annie McEwen. 

Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate

 

Check out our accompanying short video Bit Flip: the tale of a Belgian election and a cosmic ray that got in the way. 

This video was produced by Simon Adler with animation from Kelly Gallagher.

 

May 08, 2019
Dinopocalypse Redux
45:15

Using high-powered ballistics experiments, fancy computer algorithms, and good old-fashioned ancient geology, scientists have woven together a theory about the extinction of the dinosaurs that is so precise, so hot, so instantaneous, as to seem unimaginable. Today, we bring you this story, first published on Radiolab in 2013, plus an update: a spot on planet Earth, newly discovered, that - if it holds true - has the potential to tell us about the first three hours after the dinos died.

This update was reported by Molly Webster and was produced with help from Audrey Quinn. 

We teamed up with some amazing collaborators for Apocalyptical, the Radiolab live show that this episode is based on. Find out more about these wildly talented folkscomedians Reggie Watts, Patton Oswalt, Simon Amstell, Ophira Eisenberg and Kurt Braunohler; musicians On Fillmore and Noveller, and Erth Visual & Physical Inc.

Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate

 

To learn more about the North Dakota site - known as Tanis, for all you Indiana Jones fans - check out the recent paper. Make sure you spend time digging into those supplemental materials, it contains all the juice !

And, go watch Apocalyptical; to dinosaurs and beyond!

 

 

May 03, 2019